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Net neutrality regulations could be a bad thing

The open Internet isn't good for big ISPs
Mon Oct 26 2009, 18:25

NET NEUTRALITY might not be a good thing for users or Internet service providers (ISPs), according to business analytics outfit SAS.

The warning follows the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling to protect net neutrality by restricting mobile and fixed line ISPs from discriminating against legal traffic from content providers.

According to the FCC, this is to ensure that innovation and competition is maintained and that the average end user isn't shafted by large corporations leaning on ISPs to squeeze smaller, rival outfits until they choke.

So far this may seem like the only logical way to go and we're sure most of us here in the UK would love Ofcom to take a similar stance.

But Tajinder Jagdev, head of the Communications, Media and Entertainment Practice for SAS UK warns that it might not all be sunshine and roses.

"The implications of the FCC ruling have wider ramifications, as in practice 'net neutrality' has the potential to undermine companies such as AT&T in America who want to restrict the use of Internet [by] companies like Skype on the smartphones," he said

"The ruling would benefit content companies like Skype but cut into the revenues generated by telecom providers from phone calls. This ultimately raises outstanding issues that need to be addressed in order for the interests of all parties involved to be protected."

SAS also reckons that by letting surfers run rampant over the Internet and just visit whatever sites they please, with no control from the ISPs apart from blocking illegal content, those using high bandwidth applications will slow everything down for those with less demanding requirements.

Jagdev stopped short of describing the Internet as a series of tubes, but he did conclude that it's only really the content providers who benefit from net neutrality, rather then the ISPs.

"If the FCC proposal is rolled out to other countries - especially the UK - content providers will be among those that benefit most from this proposal, but ISP's will need to review their existing services."

"SAS has already identified that a tiered billing model, in which users pay more money for higher bandwidth packages, is perhaps the most likely solution to remedy the problem of consumer inequality in the future and generate revenues."

Jagdev didn't mention that network neutrality has been a key governing principle of the Internet ever since its founding. Rather, he seemed to suggest that the FCC is proposing new regulations to impose changes.

In fact, the FCC is acting in opposition to a concerted effort by the major telecomm and cable broadband providers to implement content blocking and tiered-access 'traffic management' schemes that are widely thought to be designed to establish controls on their own terms over the presently free and open Internet. µ


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