The beginning of the wrong end – dare we consider the impact of a “multi-tier / multi speed” Internet?

One of the most fundamental pieces of news for ALL Internet users broke last week across in the USA but seems to have slipped under the radar over here.

Put simply it’s the start of a change of stance by a number of major US carriers of “data” to levy additional charges to content providers that generate large volumes of Internet traffic. To explain this further, at present if an end user chooses to use the service of “content provider A” they access it via whatever internet connection or point of presence choose to use (whether a paid or free service), fixed or mobile. But the current result could be a popular service (for example social network site content or video streaming) delivering a mass of internet traffic generated by “content provider A” across the major carriers networks with no additional charge paid to the carrier (who must still maintain quality of service, manage bottlenecks, etc.).

However the news broadcast last week highlighted a change of stance by a major US carrier who is now requesting an additional charge from a major TV/film streaming company to carry its traffic across the carriers’ network.  And what happens if the content provider refuses to or does not have a cost model that supports the payment of such a charge – does that mean traffic generated by an end user of the service is discarded, rejected?

This overt change seems to be by many as a first small step to a multi-tiered internet, not the “free ish” flowing internet we have today. And the worry, what originates in the US seems to have a tendency to quickly permeate to the UK/Europe (and how could this not).

I revisit the title of this blog, “Could this be the beginning of the wrong end”, which sees types of content only running at optimum levels when transported via “Carrier As” network but not “Carrier B”? And what happens when the networks join at various parts of the Internet, will traffic formally slow down at certain points because “Content provider C” hasn’t paid the carrier “traffic transport” premium?  As an end user of an internet service does anyone really need to understand where, who and how to connect to gain not only the best experience but potentially the service at all?

This could be deemed an unsolvable problem as many think for carrier to seek to maximise the monetary income from transporting data is not unreasonable especially when they are fundamental to service delivery – but equally it’s tough for content providers (and that is virtually everyone on the internet) to factor in yet another variable in their income cost model (if they have a cost model at all).  The Internet is only of value if “content” is available to the widest audience and can deliver the optimum end user experience with/from that content – a variable end user experience without the end user understanding why does not bode well.

This one is one to watch with very interesting times ahead.  However this is resolved, and there are unlikely to be any true winners, ramifications to every popular content provider on the internet are great (and likely to cascade down to the end user).

Watch this space.

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter @colinwccuk

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About Colin Williams

Colin is Computacenter's Practice Leader for Networking, Visual Collaboration & Security @colinwccuk

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