Net Neutrality and What It Means for Video Content Providers
The rise of video content providers, such as Netflix and YouTube, has led to an enormous increase in Internet traffic, which in turn has created congestion throughout the Internet. A number of Internet service providers (ISPs) have proposed that they be allowed to deal with this traffic by charging content providers extra to support faster transmission speeds. Content providers, on the other hand, generally support the concept of net neutrality, which means that ISPs will be required by law to give equal treatment to all content on the Internet.
The basic idea of net neutrality (also called network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is that ISPs and intermediaries such as Akamai and Level 3, should not be allowed to discriminate among the various content traversing their network and should not be allowed to charge tolls to high volume content providers. In fact, there was an Internet Slow Day in support of Net Neutrality recently where websites including Netflix, Vimeo, and Twitter, slowed down their loading times as a symbolic protest to show what the internet could be like.
The way in which the net neutrality issue is resolved will have an enormous impact on video content providers because they generate the majority of web traffic today. Netflix alone now accounts for more than 34% of peak wired download traffic in North America, and YouTube comprises another 13%. The growth of streaming video traffic has generated congestion that has hurt performance at major internet providers.
Some ISPs have demanded interconnected fees from video service providers. For example, Netflix recently agreed to pay interconnection fees to Comcast to provide direct access to Comcast’s network which resulted in a 65% speed increase according Netflix. ISPs and network equipment providers generally oppose net neutrality rules because they say it would get the government involved in settings the terms and prices set by ISPs and restrict their ability to invest in new technology that improves the user experience. For example, Cisco recently stated that: “Allowing broadband service providers to innovate freely and differentiate their networks will enable them to provide consumers with enhanced service offerings and richer content.”
On the other hand, video content providers, including Netflix and Google, the parent company of YouTube, support net neutrality because it would force ISPs to give their huge volumes of traffic equal treatment without payment of any additional interconnection fees. As Netflix put it: “Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service. When an ISP sells a consumer a 10 or 50 megabits-per-second Internet package, the consumer should get that rate, no matter where the data is coming from.”
What happens over the next year or so will have a big impact to determining the future of net neutrality. The US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC ruled in January 2014 that the Federal Communications Commission did not have authority to impose an earlier set of net neutrality guidelines because the FCC is only allowed to regulate service providers defined as “common carriers”, and ISPs have never been defined as common carriers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering reclassifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and issuing new regulations. Some members of Congress are calling for that body to weigh in on the matter with new legislation.
However the net neutrality issue is resolved, it’s a safe bet that as video streaming traffic continues to grow at a rapid rate, the problem of congestion on the Internet is going to be with us for a long time. Along with resolving political and legal issues, improving video streaming technology will help to make more efficient use of the network infrastructure. EuclidIQ is developing innovative technology in video compression to help reduce the volume of bandwidth required to support video traffic from users.
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