Monday, January 21, 2013

The law of the hungriest: Net neutrality and video

I was reflecting recently on net neutrality and its impact on delivering video in wireless networks. Specifically, most people I have discussed this with, seem to think that net neutrality means doing nothing. No intervention from the network operator to prioritize, discriminate, throttle, reduce or suppress a type of traffic vs another, whether based on a per subscriber, location, device or service.

This strikes me as somewhat short sighted and not very cogent of how the industry operates. I wonder why net neutrality is to apply to mobile networks, but not to handset manufacturers, app providers or content providers for instance.

There has been several depictions of some handset vendors or app providers having implemented method that are harmful to networks either unwittingly or downright predatory. Some smartphone vendors, for instance implement proprietary variations of streaming protocols to grab as much capacity of the network as possible, irrespective of the encoding of the accessed video, to ensure a fast and smooth video delivery to their the detriment of others. It is easy to design an app or a browser or a video service that would use as much of a network capacity as possible, irrespective of the actual need for the service to function normally, which would result for a better user experience for the person accessing the service / the app / using this device but a degraded quality of experience for everyone else.

Why is that not looked after by net neutrality regulatory committees? Why would the network provide unrestricted access to any app / device / video service and let them fight for capacity without control? Mobile networks become ruled then by the law of the hungriest and when it comes to video, it can quickly become a fight dominated by the most popular web sites, phone vendors or app providers... I think that net neutrality, if it has to happen in mobile networks must be managed and that the notion of fair access extends to all parties involved.

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