The changing fortunes of Net neutrality

Open Internet, broadband market and special arrangements all in play

By Deke Kassabian, Network World |  Networking, net neutrality

Network neutrality is a term coined more than a decade ago by Columbia Law professor Tim Wu, and describes an equal-treatment approach to Internet traffic handling. In 2010, I wrote in Network World about the Net neutrality conversation then in progress. Now, during the first few months of 2014, a few interesting things have developed and Net neutrality may be a useful lens through which to consider them.

" In January, a federal court ruled against parts of the FCC's 2010 Open Internet order, maintaining some but effectively reducing other net neutrality assurances." In mid-February, Comcast bid $45 billion to acquire Time Warner Cable, to create a national giant cable television provider (and by extension, home broadband Internet provider)." In late February, Netflix and Comcast struck a business arrangement to allow improved Netflix traffic delivery on the Comcast network that so many Netflix customers use. More recently, it has been reported that Netflix entered into a similar deal with Verizon." Now, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recognizes the mounting concern regarding Net neutrality. In recent days he has committed to clarifying the FCC position on the 2010 Open Internet Order and if and how the provisions apply to broadband Internet providers. Wheeler and the FCC will release a proposal to the public on May 15. 

Let's look at each of these developments a little more closely, beginning with...

The Weakening of the Open Internet

The January US Court of Appeals ruling on Net neutrality actually maintained the expectation that ISPs should be transparent regarding their traffic handling and special business arrangements in order to avoid opaque anti-competitive practices. The court ruled, however, in a way that may allow broadband providers to charge for expedited services. In 2010, I argued that something like this could be a sensible model. If transparency was maintained, different service levels could reasonably be offered at different prices. In 2014 I find myself a little less persuaded by my 2010 thinking, primarily because...

The Broadband Market is Coalescing

Originally published on Network World |  Click here to read the original story.
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