Consider this; you’re in the supermarket and the lines are really long and slow moving. Then you notice a separate till at the end. The queue is much smaller and the customers are moving through the checkout really quickly, at a pace of almost double that of the regular tills.
When you look closer, you notice a sign – pay extra to move faster through the checkout. Sighing, you settle back into your long line to wait your turn patiently.
If the tills were internet service providers, the quick moving queue would be the equivalent of online companies paying extra for a quicker delivery of their content. Which is exactly what net neutrality is attempting to combat. The concept states that all content provided on the internet should be treated equally, regardless of who is behind the content.
This issue has been under discussion for several years, and at the heart of the matter is how to keep the internet neutral and open to all, whilst motivating ISP’s to expand and develop applications. The USA has seen a recent debate come to an end, as the Federal Communications Commission voted to support net neutrality, leading to broadband being governed like a public utility.
As with any change, there is always an impact, so what will the overall effect of net neutrality be? Advocates believe that it will allow start-up companies and small businesses to continue to have an online presence, whilst protecting innovation.
Everyone who uses the internet should potentially benefit from equal access to all sites. Large companies, such as Netflix, Facebook and Amazon, will also benefit. In the past such companies have had to pay higher fees to maintain speeds. Under the new law, this will not be allowed to happen. Having to subsidise specific data usage and content should be a thing of the past.
But for every supporter, there is also opposition. The main criticism links to perceived increases in taxes and fees paid to the internet providers, to pay for the extra cost of the new legislation. This could lead to less money being spent expanding and improving networks, which could result is a less effective service, as well as having a knock-on effect on jobs.
Certain companies, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, feel this ruling will lead to a bad business environment. It’s felt that FCC will have control over the internet, rather than the internet providers, which may ultimately lead to them being governed by the same rules as those applied to phone companies.
On the move
These rules also cover wireless broadband, so it will make no difference whether you are accessing the internet on your phone of sitting at home. Big wireless companies feel that this could make congestion on their networks harder to manage, which could lead to data issues and have a knock-on effect on different service plans.
Effect on IT
Small technological companies and mobile app developers have never been able to compete with the big guns when it comes to developing infrastructure and positioning on the internet. However, with the new rules in place regarding net neutrality there is more likelihood of an equal playing field, as everyone will have access to the same bandwidth.
IT professionals use bandwidth in a variety of ways: through API Access, streaming videos, audios and photographs, business software – the list is endless. Ideally, if net neutrality finds its footing, the costs of providing these services should remain low or perhaps reduce. This ensures costs are kept down for the customers and enables more professionals to access the ever-expanding world of IT services. This could open up further IT development, make way for new start-ups, and create all-around greater competition.
In the immediate future, the end user probably won’t see much difference in their provision. Service providers will probably fight the ruling, so it is likely that changes will be held in abeyance. Users shouldn’t notice any sudden speed surges or sites being blocked or slowed down, but the long-term impacts remain to be seen.