Net Neutrality and Content Delivery Network Services

October 29th, 2012 by

According to Business Cloud News, content delivery network services are set to grow to three times their current size in the next five years, reaching a total of $4.63bn.  Why so optimistic about the growth of this market?  Because the demand for internet content has risen, globally.

Here in the U.S., Akamai is the market leader – mostly because they were mirroring Web content back when that meant pictures and text. But Amazon and Google, as well as a host of smaller companies, are getting into this space.

When we talk about content delivery today, what we’re really talking about the majority of the time is video. Stream a movie, watch a sporting event, get rick-rolled – video content is becoming more and mainstream – not just in the U.S. and Europe, but in the rest of the world as well.  And while it used to be just broadcasters and YouTube to deal with online video, social network sites, software and gaming companies e-commerce firms, and… well, let’s just say that nobody wants to wait too long for content.

For that reason, obviously, network monitoring and management tools are necessary to keep tabs on network congestion and latency.  However, the sophisticated tools that can be used to manage networks can also be used to control them.  So it is natural to bring up the net neutrality question: Would large companies prioritize the delivery of their own content for content providers willing to pay more?  This would violate the spirit of the net neutrality that keeps bits as equal.

The problem, however, is that content delivery network services whole purpose is to accelerate the delivery of content.  Of course they’re going to provide the best priority service to the highest paying customer.  And honestly, there’s not that much of a problem with that.

When you think about it, what really worries people about a loss of net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers can provide better quality of service to their own offerings, to the detriment of their competitors.  But the reason this is so worry some is because many ISPs have de facto monopolies in many neighborhoods.  Users and content providers therefore are forced into dealing with the company in order to make sure that the content is even accessed at all.

On the other hand, content delivery network service providers are optional.  You’re contracting with them to distribute your content precisely because you want to increase your content performance.  And if you pay $50k/mo, and someone else pays $75k/mo, they’re probably going to get a higher priority service.  It may be enough bandwidth for the both of you – but maybe not.  Point is, though, you’re not getting objectively worse performance than if you had not dealt with the company in the first place.  And if you don’t like how you’re getting treated, this market isn’t a monopoly – you can go somewhere else.  Or even start your own – it is a growing market after all.

So I’m not too worried about traffic-management practices at content delivery network service providers violating network neutrality.

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