Policy bites: Net Neutrality

Network Neutrality

What is it?

Net Neutrality (NN) is the debate over whether the internet should operate pretty much as it does at the moment or whether ISPs should be able to block or charge differently based on the application that a user is using, or alternatively give preferential treatment to a company e.g. Media Company X’s content streams just that bit faster than everyone else’s.

Net Neutrality stems from fact that some users consume a lot more bandwidth than others and often this is for services that are damaging the business models of existing companies. For example someone using Skype no long has to pay for their local phone company for long distance calls. The debate tends also to be linked with illegal downloading hence peer to peer services can find themselves being blocked.

Why it matters?

Net Neutrality seems like one of those obscure policy issues that never has an impact in the real world. But already companies have been caught out by non-neutral ISP policies. The kinds off issues that Net Neutrality presents for any game company with an online component (even if it’s just downloading patches), include:

  • Online games can be inadvertently blocked
  • Games that use peer-to-peer (p2P) networks for downloading can be blocked as bi-product of trying to cut down on illegal downloads
  • Voice over IP (VoIP) services can be blocked, impacting the increasing number of games that have integrated in-game voice
  • Ping time, which is critical to some games, is generally not part of the discussion but could be impacted
  • To avoid these blocks companies may be charged by ISPs

For social media the potential direct impact on big providers is that ISP’s may come asking for more money for preferential treatment. This will be an additional cost of business for big providers and possibly a killer for small providers. What’s more users on different ISPs may start to see the internet very differently impacting the kind of sharing that fuels Social Networks.

See more from tVPN on Net Neutrality: http://www.virtualpolicy.net/tag/netneutrality

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Ren Reynolds

Ren is the founder of the Virtual Policy Network.

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