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Why net neutrality matters to your business

Jonathan Hassell | June 12, 2014
Net neutrality is about more than individual consumers' rights to stream video over the Web without paying extra for it. Partitioning the Internet into haves and have-nots will give big companies yet another advantage over smaller, more disruptive firms. Speak up before your business gets shut out, CIO.com contributor Jonathan Hassell recommends.

Though net neutrality has recently come to a head, many IT managers and leaders I talk to don't truly grasp the implications of this issue for the Internet and the marketplace as a whole. Let's spend some time breaking down the issue and pointing out that, while you may not have cared about net neutrality before, you absolutely need to care now.

What Is Net Neutrality?

Essentially, net neutrality at its core refers to the principle that a packet is a packet is a packet when it traverses the Internet. Internet service providers adhering to net neutrality standards don't particularly care whether a packet streams video, an email, an upload to SharePoint or an FTP download. It's just traffic; to them, all traffic is the same. In addition to not caring about traffic, net neutrality refers to data being accessible to all customers with Internet access regardless of their provider, without the provider discriminating access or service quality among sources of traffic.

The idea of net neutrality has been around for a while, but it has become increasingly mainstream as more and more services are delivered over the Internet and World Wide Web and not other types of networks and transmission systems. So much content is being delivered over the Internet that it's saturating the existing interconnect capacity between network providers, many of whom are reluctant to incur the expense of expanding that capacity to favor only a few sources of that congestion.

Combining Internet and Entertainment Is Bad News

The proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger represents a worrying net neutrality development. Both rank among the most hated companies in America, and two Time Warner Cable billing snafus nearly wrecked my recent home purchase and mortgage application. (Both issues have been rectified).

Putting the two companies together has got to be the worst idea for consumers in a very, very long time. I'd be very skeptical the merger would even make it through government scrutiny - were it not for the fact that the cable plants for each of the respective companies do not overlap at all, thanks to the nature of the local, municipality-sanctioned business monopolies each enjoy.

On top of all that, NBC Universal, a company created in 2004, merged with Comcast in 2009 through a complicated buyout scheme. The result: A huge entertainment company that also serves millions of broadband access customers with its Internet service provider business.

Owning all the movies that Universal produces and owning the popular major broadcast network NBC and controlling the only home Internet access most of their customers have offers NBC Universal an unprecedented opportunity to control the distribution of information and entertainment to its customers.

 

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