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Tiered Internet Services versus Net Neutrality: Notes from the Google Verizon Chapter (Part II)

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on August 25, 2010

Continued from an earlier post on Net Neutrality and Tiered Internet Services

The Tiered Internet Proposal: Google favours being pragmatic than principled.

Amid all the vitriol, one overlooked fact is that a Verizon, has agreed that the FCC should have the regulatory authority to enforce nondiscrimination, which is at the heart of net neutrality for its Wireline networks. That’s the good news. For Verizon, this is a short term loss in realizations in favour of a taking a stake in the future of Internet on Wireless.

The bad news is that the proposal wouldn’t require net neutrality on wireless networks.Google has clearly compromised the position on wireless net neutrality it held almost religiously. Both Google and Verizon realize that the future belongs to Wireless Internet and they had to hedge the future gain against a current loss, which is why, they have up their stakes in Fixed Line Internet.

What, Exactly, Is “Managed Services”? (Tiered Internet)

The first two components of the deal — net neutrality for wired networks, no net neutrality for wireless networks — are fairly straightforward. But it’s the third component, the mysterious “managed services” provision, that has proved most confusing and has the most controversial and potentially long-lasting implications.

In essence, Google and Verizon are proposing a separate network apart from the “public Internet,” where nondiscrimination wouldn’t apply and where interested parties would be able to buy huge chunks of bandwidth and superfast connections. Some of the benign-sounding uses Google and Verizon have mentioned are things like medical data that need a fast, secure network, or low-latency networks for hardcore Internet gamers. Managed services would be a faster, paid alternative to the public Internet, kind of like ultra-premium cable. For example, YouTube videos delivered faster than other content.

There is some merit in the advent of tiered services, but it all depends upon what levels of regulation, self-discipline and control that carriers are ready to impose on themselves. Then there is a the case that while favored services have some steam in the debate, there is also a lot of open innovation that the internet fosters. Imagine having You Tube or Twitter in a tightly regulated internet domain.

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