In today’s Wall Street Journal story, “For Web Firms, Faster Access Comes at a Price,” the paper writes:
“Hoping to speed traffic through an increasingly congested Internet, several big Web companies including Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. are paying major broadband providers for connections to get faster and smoother access to their networks.”
This has some Net Neutrality activists crying foul, but, as the paper points out, “paying for these direct connections is legal,” and doesn’t breach the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules because those rules are focused on the last mile to the customer’s home, not direct connections between content providers and the edge of the broadband network itself.
As the FCC has noted in its Net Neutrality rules, these so-called content-delivery network (CDN) arrangements are generally beneficial to end-users. The agency points out:
CDN services are designed to reduce the capacity requirements and costs of the CDN’s edge provider clients by hosting the content for those clients closer to end users…CDNs typically provide a benefit to the sender and recipient of traffic without causing harm to third-party traffic…
Even the most aggressive pro-Net Neutrality groups, like Free Press, do not seem offended by these practices. As this tweet yesterday from Free Press’ Matt Wood shows:
Broadband providers are in the business of satisfying their customers. They want popular services to go through without glitches so that users come back for more. But, as the article points out, for some providers, Internet traffic is growing so fast that they have to double their network capacity every 18 to 24 months. Congestion must be managed, and the cost-causers, such as content providers of video or other data-hungry services, must help out.
Paying to bring data-rich (and congestion-causing) content closer to users to boost speed and improve the customer’s experience is a reasonable response to these growing challenges. These practices make the Internet better and richer. They should be encouraged where reasonably needed.