Broadband

Will Open Internet changes affect the enterprise market?

Telecom networks

The government's Open Internet policy known as "net neutrality" was struck down by a federal appeals court in a Jan. 14 ruling. The decision in Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission potentially opens the door for broadband providers to differentiate the treatment of different kinds of content.

The implications seem clear for consumers – the worry is that broadband providers might start making deals that privilege one application over another, or degrading the performance of applications that compete with their own native services. In the case of on-demand video library services, an ISP could create a fast lane for the delivery of Netflix that doesn't support competitors such as Hulu or Amazon Prime. Another worry is that charging online apps a kind of access fee could raise a barrier for new entrants who want to compete in established markets.

The fallout for enterprise users, including government, is less clear. Cloud computing, video conferencing, and other bandwidth-hungry applications could potentially fall into the same bucket as Netflix. But the cloud computing industry isn't raising any flags about potential access fees. This is in part because the commercial broadband market is usually regulated under a different set of rules. Individual consumers typically get their "last mile" of broadband through a DSL or cable connection. Enterprise customers contract on a building-by-building basis for last-mile connections that often merge data traffic with voice traffic, and are provided by large, incumbent telecommunications companies or competitors who lease access on their networks.

"If you're talking about big government buildings, they almost certainly have dedicated lines that would fall under 'special access,'" said Doug Brake, a telecom policy analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. "The FCC's Open Internet rules didn't touch special access in the first place, so the D.C. Circuit's opinion doesn't change anything for these users."

In general, Brake feels that broadband providers are going to be cautious about making changes to their business practices that go against the spirit of neutrality. "To be honest, I don't expect very radical changes with regard to the residential consumer," he said.

Netflix agrees with this sentiment. The company raised the possibility of a "draconian scenario" in which ISPs look to extract fees from the video services in a Jan. 22 report to investors, but concluded that, "The most likely case, however, is that ISPs will avoid this consumer-unfriendly path of discrimination. ISPs are generally aware of the broad public support for net neutrality and don’t want to galvanize government action."

Still, the decision to eliminate the Open Internet rules has the potential to change the relationship between online applications and the networks that carry them. "Anyone moving data has to be concerned about having to pay more to move that data," said Chris Lewis, vice president for government affairs at the consumer watchdog group Public Knowledge, which supports net neutrality rules.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Mon, Jan 27, 2014

Net neutrality is a growing issue, and it's important to keep up with all of these changes that are going on. If anyone kind of needs a refresher on the basics, here's a great short mockumentary to bring you up to speed: www.theinternetmustgo.com/

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group