The issue of Net Neutrality is one that has been widely debated, but to date, implementation is limited. Chile became the first country in the world to implement Net Neutrality, back in July 2010. The US also has strong Net Neutrality FCC Regulations in place for fixed networks, and something Strategy Analytics has reported on in other posts.
Following the introduction of legislation in June 2011 on Net Neutrality, the Netherlands has, as of last week, become the first European country to adopt net neutrality provisions into national law. What this means for carriers is that they can no longer charge extra, or impose special conditions for any internet service. Furthermore, they cannot determine what sites their customers visit. From a user perspective, this means that they have unrestricted access to the OTT services that are eating the operators’ lunch – services such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber, for example – without the worry of having to pay extra to do so, or have connection speeds throttled. Only under exceptional conditions – network congestion and security, for example – are operators allowed to slow down user connections. The law also includes provisions for anti-wiretapping, prohibiting the use of deep packet inspection (DPI) on users’ tariff, unless the user says it is ok to do so.
While this may appeal to some users, others may like the ability for data traffic to be treated differently by application to perhaps give them better options for a la carte pricing and improved user experience. It is unclear if operators are allowed to differentiate traffic if it is a user-selected subscription where the user has opted in for DPI.
The counter-argument surfacing is that this move to net neutrality could, in fact, lead to reduced innovation around new services for users, and furthermore, that an end-users’ broadband experience would be more susceptible to network congestion, simply because operators aren’t allowed to discriminate against bandwidth-hungry users. Another unwelcome outcome could be an increase in service prices by providers, to compensate for the restrictions
This is a contentious debate that is likely to run for some time to come, and has the potential to encourage more countries to consider whether to limit their providers in this way. Very interesting times ahead, and something that Strategy Analytics’ will be keeping a close eye on.