Saturday, July 15, 2006

Internet + US Communication Bill = Walled garden

For those of you who are not aware of New Communication Bill (also known in press as Net Neutrality). In US senate please search Google you find tons of articles explaining/debating about this topic. As title of my posting suggests at the heart of the bill is this issue of how basic Internet works should work?

Though internet is supposed to be international network of service but in practice it is US and its policies that have single most influence on its working. The new bill if passed would break so called internet neutrality (i.e. all data traffic are treated same on the network irrespective of its type(voice data, file data etc),source of origin or destination).The new bill would allow the telecommunication companies which own the physical networks through which internet traffic flows, to control and differentiate the traffic in their network .So in simple terms it would allow Telco’s to create paid network ways for data like the present paid motorways where entering traffic at toll gate has to pay a fees to enter the roadway .Unlike today were there are no such paid data traffic ways and hence today Telco’s pay fixed interconnect charges based on bandwidth capacity between themselves to carry traffics of each other but are not allowed to give differential treatments based on particular traffic .

If new bill is passed in present form it has potential to curb internet as we know today .One small example to illustrate what it can mean in practice is some of websites will appear faster to end user compared to the others even though all sites are hosted on same power servers and connected with same bandwidth data pipe to the network .The reason being that faster websites would have paid Telco toll fees for the traffic that originates to and from its server so that it would be given preferential treatment in their network. Today it is not like that if you access multi billion dollar company or a few thousand dollar a new startup from network perspective the data traffic are treated similarly .

Initially Telco’s are lobbying so that they can introduce so called convergence solutions (i.e. delivering TV, internet, Voice calls on a single telephone line i.e. exists in home) in a similar way how cable companies can and are delivering through cable .Telco’s claim that without the ability to differentiate traffic they cant deliver good quality IP TV services which in fact would be competing with TV services delivered through traditional cable. another point is as cable companies are providing Voice services using VOIP and competing Telco’s in their traditional space they should also be allowed to provide TV services and allowed to compete with cable companies in their traditional space .Though I tend to agree with their claim to deliver TV kind of services they need to differentiate the data but my worry as that of many others is that once you have infrastructure in place to do differentiate one type of services it is very easy and also not far fetched to imagine that they would like to differentiate other data traffic also. This would drastically change how internet works today .Infact it would make it a closed network delivering selected few services which are dictated and controlled by Telco’s. There is one example already existing i.e. mobile networks that are in available today more or less works as controlled networks delivering only few services like voice call, though technically they can deliver all most all type of services that are delivered on internet .Infect that in my opinion single most reason why data services have never picked up in mobile space as already suggested in my earlier posting on Mobile Web 2.0 .So in a way you can say if new bill passes then we may take present truly open internet to kind of closed network which some call “walled garden”.

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