Should there be a “Use more, pay more” fee for Internet use? Should the cost of sending a text message to Grandma about junior’s birthday party be the same as the cost of sending the entire video of junior’s birthday party? How much of the Internet is a person or company entitled to? These were some of the questions that CIO magazine‘s Gary Beach recently attempted to address in a video commentary, Net Neutrality: Why the Internet Can’t Remain Free, which recently appeared on CIO magazine’s website.
The Internet is now a pervasive and ubiquitous tool for businesses and consumers alike. In whatever form the Internet is used – blogging, email, video or web browsing – the Internet now affects everyone in some way. In fact, it is hard to think of life as we know it today without Internet access though we are just a decade removed from little or no Internet access at all.
The trouble is more data means more Internet traffic and with it comes concerns about congestion on the Internet. It is not just more data; it is the type and amount of data traversing the Internet. Streaming video is first and foremost among the concerns about why Internet congestion appears inevitable. The Internet can probably handle for years to come text and even image-based website traffic like pictures and photos. But as NCAA basketball games, American Idol, the Olympics and other live events are transmitted over the Internet at the same time, these live transmissions have ramifications that go well beyond just poor video quality.
This type of traffic does not play to the strengths of the underlying network infrastructure of the Internet. Dropped packets require retransmissions. Retransmissions result in delays. Delays result in poor video quality creating frustrated users. However, the bigger question that Gary raises in the video is whose responsibility is it to pay for the infrastructure to improve this? Should the NCAA and America’s colleges streaming the videos need to pay extra or the people watching the videos? And should that traffic run across the same Internet backbone that was designed to handle email and web browsing?
This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. A bill entitled the Communications Opportunity Promotion Enhancement (COPE) is already working its way across Capital Hill with companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast on one side of the aisle and Google and Yahoo on the other. The telecoms are arguing for a “Use more, pay more” model while Google and Yahoo are calling for a “one size Internet fits all”. Though no one winner has yet emerged, expect a premium tier of Internet service to eventually be forced on businesses that send or receive data volumes that exceed specified limits.
So what does this mean for businesses? It unclear at this point but it should clearly serve as a warning for businesses to get their collective act together and determine what is acceptable and unacceptable in terms of what content they want their employees viewing over the Internet while at work as well as what sort of content their business makes available on the Internet. So whether employees are watching NCAA basketball games or your company makes panoramics view of its parking lot available over the Internet, the premium associated with sending or receiving any of this type of content over the Internet seems destined to go up which may impact companies who are using the Internet for backup, replication or business continuity in ways they least expect.