Uncommon Wisdom

Jan 29 2009   2:49PM GMT

The Internet access traffic management flap, net neutrality and reality

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

Google is releasing a set of tools from its Measurement Lab that are intended to help consumers figure out if their ISPs are doing them wrong with traffic management. The new tools capitalize on the flap created by the Comcast-FCC war on bandwidth management policies.

At the same time, Cox is saying it will be implementing a traffic priority handling system that unlike Comcast’s “level” approach will preference “real-time” traffic in congestion periods. This, they feel (and we agree) is consistent with the FCC’s 2005 four-point net neutrality position (which isn’t an FCC order and thus doesn’t have regulatory force anyway).

All of this is critical for the industry because the notion of unlimited, virtually free, access bandwidth is a hopeless dream. That means that either heavy users are going to be made to suffer delay, or users overall will suffer. The Google move, the Comcast flap, and all of the noise are simply providing cover for the imposition of usage caps, and that would potentially reshape the online landscape, particularly video.

Don’t think Congress will fix the problem with “net neutrality” either; you can’t legislate broadband expansion and the stimulus decision not to address it on a broad scale says Washington won’t pay for it either.

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