SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Tom Nolle
Tom Nolle is the president and founder of CIMI Corporation and the principal consultant/analyst. Tom started his career as a...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Tom Nolle | September 11, 2014 |

 
   

Net Neutrality: Which of Many?

Net Neutrality: Which of Many? The real question isn’t what should happen with net neutrality, but rather what could happen.

The real question isn’t what should happen with net neutrality, but rather what could happen.

There's no question that the Internet has changed lives, economies, maybe civilization and culture. There's also no question that some of the impetus behind Internet growth has been the usual business framework behind it. In a world where providers have traditionally charged for the interconnection of their networks and for pan-provider delivery, the Internet has been a bill-and-keep model with (in many cases) zero incremental cost of bandwidth.

The current Internet model came about naturally, whether it's a natural model or not, but "naturally" means that market forces set things on their current paths. Market forces change, of course, and underneath it all, the current debate on net neutrality is a debate on continuation. Do we "continue" to allow market forces to frame Internet services, or do we solidify current behaviors into regulation? Needless to say, the ISPs and content providers and so forth all have their own (self-serving) views, and it's tempting to offer yet another set of views here. Tempting, but probably not useful. The real question isn't what should happen with net neutrality, but rather what could happen.

The focus of all these discussions is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which many see as a kind of all-powerful regulatory body that can make rules for the Internet. That's only true in a narrow sense, though. Like all federal commissions, the FCC isn't a law-making body but a court (what's called a "quasi-judicial agency"). Congress makes laws, and the FCC makes rules within the framework of these laws. When the FCC is taken to court, as it was on its Neutrality Order, it's being accused of not following the law, so let's start with what the law is.

The Telecom Act of 1996 represents the legal framework for regulating communications services. It amends the old Communications Act of 1934, which was also amended by other legislation (Cable Television Acts of 1984 and 1992, for example). The sum of all these Acts is to create a regulatory framework that roughly divides communications activity into "regulated" and "unregulated" areas.

In the former are "common carrier" activities like voice and data communications services. The Internet, as an information service, falls into the unregulated area. But the Internet as information is delivered over communications services, right? What are those? That's been the debate up to now, and the FCC took the position that the Internet was an information service with a communication component, not subject to common carrier regulation. When the Neutrality Act imposed specific communications-oriented rules on ISPs, the courts said the FCC had exceeded its authority, and must either abandon the sort of rules it wanted or reverse itself and declare Internet access a common-carrier service. That's where we are now.

Three possibilities present themselves at this point:

• The FCC could forget the whole thing and let the market decide. That's happening today, and it's why companies like Netflix are paying some ISPs for handling of their traffic. Clearly this approach will gradually increase costs for content providers, which could be passed along to consumers. It will also result in increased revenue for ISPs, which could mean less pressure to raise prices, or could result in better services down the line.

• The FCC could declare ISPs common carriers, and impose specific rules that could limit or eliminate charging content providers for carriage. That would open the door to a host of things, including requirements that cable companies share their infrastructure as telcos have had to do.

• Congress could (again) amend telecom regulations to give the FCC latitude to regulate Internet services at the network-and-connection level, without imposing common-carrier regulations.

Broadly speaking, what this is about is settlement, the way that money paid for Internet connectivity is collected and divided. The model that evolved for the Internet is called "bill-and-keep," meaning every ISP charges its own customers and keeps all the money, even though many (most) online services cross at least two ISPs. Carriers and network equipment vendors (privately in many cases) fear that if over the top (OTT) providers pump content to customers without sharing the revenue that their content generates, either customer broadband costs will rise or return on investment in infrastructure will fall, degrading the Internet for all.

The alternative is to divide revenue across those who incur costs. On the face, this seems fair and logical, but it's clearly not how the Internet developed. Neutrality supporters say that settlement like this favors big OTTs who can afford to pay, perhaps stalling Internet innovation by killing venture funding interest, because startups' costs would increase significantly. There's also a fear that ISPs, many of whom are in the TV and voice business, might impose charges on competitors to make their own services more attractive.

Some past history seem to favor both sides at once, depending on how you look at it. The telephone system, when it got started, was such a tenuous business that Congress set it up as a regulated monopoly. Starting in 1996 with the Telecom Act, public policy has moved toward privatizing telecommunications in general. You could argue that the Internet needs protection now, as the Bell system did at its own inception. You could argue that deregulation of telecommunications means free market forces should decide network issues. Both perspectives have merit in a debating sense, and both have advocates.

The big question, though, is whether truth, advocacy, or even good public policy matter. Congress seems unable to do anything--the current one is rated the worst in history by voters and there are already signs the next one might be worse. The FCC seems to be waffling on what its policy will be, and in any event, it seems likely that the Commission couldn't do what either side wants without having the courts overturn the new ruling as they did the old. Internet policy and neutrality may depend more on what can be done, not what should be, which is why exploring the possible next steps is a worthwhile topic for my next blog.





COMMENTS



Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem


Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

November 1, 2017

Your customers (internal and external) demand that you offer them the ability to connect by any means. With the adoption of cloud communications tools you now have access to an expanded portfolio o

October 18, 2017

Microsofts recent Ignite event had some critically important announcements for enterprise communications. Namely, Microsofts new Team Collaboration offering, Teams, will be its primary communicatio

September 20, 2017

Customer experience can make or break your business. But how do you achieve outstanding customer service when you're dealing with outdated organizational structure, lagging technology, dated proces

September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.