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April 24, 2014

Large ISPs Likely Winners in New US Network Neutrality Rules


Some large ISPs, and some large content and app providers might be winners if new U.S. Federal Communications Commission network neutrality rules take the form leaked hints suggest.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission will release details about its proposed new rules on network neutrality, which will have to carefully distinguish between “best effort only” and “content delivery network” treatment of consumer Internet applications.

Rumors suggest the rules will allow voluntary use of content delivery networks, all the way to the end user location, by ISPs. But the rules also are said to require creation of new minimum levels of service for best effort traffic as well.

That will boost revenue for the large ISPs able to provide quality of service mechanisms already used by large application providers over Internet backbone networks. The CDN features also will represent a new cost of doing business for application providers who choose to enter voluntary deals for such services.

Opponents of any such rules--allowing ISPs to create lawful content delivery networks for consumer end user access--will not be happy, as the likely rules probably will permit a new tiered quality of service.

To what extent the new rules will embody principles such as Apple seeks from Comcast is not clear. Apple wants to be able to use some form of packet prioritization for its video streaming service, specifically to have its service delivered as a managed service, not an “Internet app.”

That is a subtle but crucial distinction. Carriers are allowed to use a managed service approach for their own branded voice and video entertainment services, to protect quality of service.

The prior network neutrality had prohibited such managed service approaches for consumer high speed access. The new proposed rules are said to create a framework for best effort access and managed services for the first time, in the consumer Internet access business.

So it appears that the FCC will try a compromise approach, not outlawing content delivery network agreements, but also mandating some minimum levels of service for all best effort Internet apps.

For many network neutrality supporters, that will be as unwelcome as “best effort only” rules have been unwelcome by major ISPs.




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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