Streaming Services Ask for Zero Rating and Quality of Service

Even though most of how the new common carrier regulation of Internet access is going to work, important questions already are being raised about business model and service innovation on several fronts.

T-Mobile US, for example, might face scrutiny of its Music Freedom feature, which allows T-Mobile US customers to stream music without incurring data charges. Such zero rating is viewed by some as a violation of network neutrality rules, since it does not treat all bits equally.

Separately, HBO, Showtime, and Sony Corp. reportedly have asked major Internet service providers such as Comcast about having their over the top streaming services delivered as managed services, which would offer quality of service features enhancing quality.

The network neutrality rules created by the Federal Communications Commission forbid anything but “best effort” access for consumer Internet services, but do not cover managed services such as carrier voice or standard cable TV services that use the same physical facilities as those used to support Internet access.

Reportedly, the streaming firms want not only quality of service features, but also a zero rating feature similar to Music Freedom, allowing customers to stream at will without having the usage count against usage buckets.

Some have argued it is precisely the need for quality of service features, for many services, that make “best effort only” rules objectionable.

Ironically, we now find, immediately after passage of the rules, app providers looking to secure the advantages of quality of service (treat some bits unequally) mechanisms that enhance app performance.

There is, to be sure, a difference between “Internet-based applications” and “private network applications that use Internet protocol.”

Many private networks use IP technology and platforms, but are not public Internet apps. Carrier voice and video provide some examples. Other enterprise apps, health and safety apps, security and other services are “managed” services not necessarily using the public Internet, even if they use IP platforms.

The internal contradictions are certain to grow. Ironic, don’t you think?
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