FCC Chairman Genachowski’s recent letter has instigated a lot of talk about Net Neutrality, some of it apocalyptical (“The end of the Internet is here!”), some of it reasonable (“Nothing has changed, business as usual”). Both sides of the discussion have valid points to their arguments, but what really is the impact?
Without going into details (I will leave that to the experts), the FCC has reset the status quo to what it was before the Comcast court decision. As Genachowski himself states in the document “…this approach would restore the status quo”, resetting the ability of the FCC to manage broadband as they have in the past, preserving the FCC’s mission.
This is not “the nuclear option” that had been proposed by some, which would have made every aspect of broadband service open to regulation and restriction, and it is also not a capitulation to the Comcast ruling which would essentially make the FCC powerless against ISPs. Instead, as Genachowski himself headlined in his letter, this was a third way to look at the problem. Under this framework, the FCC would ensure that open access to networks is maintained, and focuses on the connections to the network, and not the content or services that run on that transport.
So now we are back to where we were before the Comcast ruling. However, there still are some concerns about stifling innovation and curtailing investments in broadband, but I think much of the uncertainty has been removed for ISPs (Procera customers) that want to continue to invest in their infrastructures because the evolving needs of their customers require it.
But….we are not exactly back where we were two years ago. Several changes have already come about because of this whole exercise.
- ISPs know that they MUST be transparent in what they do on their networks, and consumers are watching them very closely, so no funny business is likely to slip by end users. This is a very good thing for consumers, and will force ISPs to think twice before they implement new policies, as they will be tried in the court of opinion well before any court case could be filed, and consumers will vote with their wallets and switch if practices are not to their liking.
- There is general agreement that applications should not be discriminated against during normal operations (I qualify that because congestion management is still a problem, especially for real-time services).
- Reasonable network management is OK. Although “reasonable” is open to interpretation, I think again the court of public opinion and consumer’s wallets will guide ISPs to a mutually agreeable definition (and this is also where congestion management is again an issue).
- The door is open to ISPs that want to be creative and find ways to have service plans that innovate new services and deliver LOWER cost options for subscribers that use the network less and higher cost for the users that consume more resources.
So what is the impact of Net Neutrality on Procera?, neutral to positive. I don’t see any ISPs “behaving badly”, and no application vendors claiming discrimination. I do see smart phone customers still complaining, and some broadband customers concerned about video and voice performance, but our “reasonable” network management solutions can help ISP’s take their service to the next level. Creating better customer experiences and evolving their networks to keep up with the innovations of technology.