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Two-Tier Internet Already Exists

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Two-Tier Internet Already Exists

May 30, 2014
By Gary Kim
Contributing Editor

One of the persistent ironies of the debate over network neutrality and its insistence on “best effort only” delivery is that major content owners do not rely on best effort themselves, over the backbone of the Internet, using content delivery networks.

A content distribution network (CDN) is a large distributed system of servers deployed in multiple data centers across the Internet. 

The whole point of a CDN is improve high availability and high performance, supporting web objects (text, graphics and scripts), downloadable objects (media files, software, documents), applications (e-commerce, portals), live streaming media, on-demand streaming media, and social networks.

And though the stated objection to quality assurance measures in the local loop or Internet access function, app providers routinely build or lease services--for money--to provide higher quality experience than would be possible over a true “best effort only” backbone network.

The argument is that such measures would create a two-tier Internet- favoring app providers with more money. But that already is the case.

A CDN operator gets paid by content providers for delivering their content to their audience of end-users, precisely the business arrangement net neutrality supporters want to prevent.

In turn, a CDN pays ISPs, carriers, and network operators for hosting its servers in their data centers.

But it is clear why CDNS are used, even if the ability to pay for CDN quality improvements costs money.

Congestion on any portion of the end-to-end path will affect video streaming quality, especially at peak times, Google rightly notes. According to Conviva, at least 43 percent of video views involve some degradation of resolution.

Buffering, the typical response to congestion, leads to abandonment after about one minute, according to Conviva.

A typical YouTube (News - Alert) video playback consists of a YouTube client (player) fetching video bytes in a streaming fashion from a YouTube server using the Google content delivery network, used to support both YouTube and Google and Google-supported applications.

Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Netflix and other major app providers routinely use content delivery networks to improve end user experience of their own apps.

Beyond the specific concern over a “two tier Internet,” who can argue that market power, financial resources and other advantages are disproportionately characteristics of the whole market?

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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