Well. Interesting week. Google and Verizon claimed to have solved the Net Neutrality debate. But on whose behalf?
True, these two iconic Internet brands deserve a seat at the table in determining the health and regulations of our global network’s backbone. Yet ultimately any compromises must be struck by the industry at large – with the best interest of the consumer first and foremost, as defined by the consumer (not shareholders).
Most of the key points of this proposal have been thoroughly hashed out and the media has done an excellent job at analyzing the good, the bad and the ugly. Today, there’s one factor I’d like to highlight: the fines.
No matter how the agreements, laws or regulations surrounding Net Neutrality are resolved, they must be enforceable. Bad behavior by either the ISPs or Web services cannot result in a slap on the wrist, lest the entire Internet infrastructure becomes a pay-to-play system. If the fine for throttling Skype or BitTorrent traffic is a mere $2 million but saves $10 million (and you may not even get caught), then where’s the incentive to play by the rules? Does the FCC have resources and technologies to monitor and enforce in real-time?
At BitTorrent, we are tireless advocates for Net Neutrality. The Internet belongs to everyone, wired and wireless, and therefore the only solution is for an open and transparent network that doesn’t bias toward specific types of traffic. (While we do agree that ISPs must be able to make money off their network investments, let us not forget that many of those networks relied upon taxpayer contributions, public lands and, in the case of wireless, public spectrum leased to the ISP.)
Of course network operators need the tools to “manage” their networks, but there needs to be a neutral framework within which this management takes place, there must be transparency over what is happening, and there must be real penalties to prevent practices under the guide of network management from turning into simple “choosing of the winners.”
And what is the price of complacency or appeasement here? The next wave of Internet companies must have the freedom to innovate or technology will quickly stagnate. We don’t believe either backroom deals between major corporations, or government intervention will offer a full and lasting solution. Continuous, fast-paced, open and transparent innovation is the only answer.
Yes, with media and cloud services exploding in demand, networks are being taxed. This is why we developed µTP (Micro Transport Protocol) – an intelligent delivery protocol capable of sensing traffic congestion ahead and can reroute data on a smoother path. It’s one example of the types of innovations we all need to cooperate around to ensure a healthy Internet with opportunities for all.
While Google and Verizon took things into their own hands this week, it’s important to note that Net Neutrality is certainly not yet decided. There is much more to this drama still to run and the stakes are high for everyone – stay tuned.
– Eric –