It is nice to see some work come out about network neutrality that helps support the pro side of the debate. To recap the debate quickly, network neutrality is a concept that states all information on the Internet is treated equally by the network providers regardless of what that information is. What the network providers would like to do is charge content providers – the Google, MSN, and Yahoos – of the world a fee for special “faster” delivery of their content to you the user. It raises a pile of interesting questions like what if your preferred content provider, and I will use Google as an example, decides not to pay your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for faster delivery? Will you have to switch to another ISP to get speedy access to your content? How about using a third party product like VoIP telephone service when your ISP offers their own brand of VoIP. Will your service be slower because it does not belong to the ISP?
The University of Florida has conducted a study where they have found that by allowing network providers to charge extra to the content providers they will in fact hurt the development and deployment of better faster internet solutions. Using a Game Theory model they analyzed who would win and loose if net neutrality were abandoned.
Kenneth Cheng, one of the professors involved, stated “The conventional wisdom is that Internet service providers would have greater incentive to expand their service capabilities if they were allowed to charge,” but went on to state “That was completely the opposite of what we found.”. He also commented that better service stems from an increased competitive marketplace which can be observed in countries like Japan and Korea, where service is up to three times faster than North American standards.
This is also important in Canadian context since the Industry Minister is currently involved in researching the topic of Telecommunications deregulation which will likely have an impact on ISP services and performance. During a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology Minister Bernier failed to provide any understanding of the impact deregulation would have on the market, and the need for net neutrality. Lucky for him the University of Florida has produced additional materials to convince him that network neutrality is in everyone’s interest. I hope their report finds its way in to his lap.