As growth in Web services has continued to explode, demanding high usage of data in the process, global telecommunications companies are battling more intensely with technology firms over the regulations of how Internet traffic is handled. The friction has been building up and coming to light this week at the Mobile World Congress exhibition in Barcelona, Spain.
The main issue that is causing the complications between telecommunications companies and technology firms pertains to the decisions being made over how to divide the profits and the costs that result from the high amounts of data usage throughout the world’s networks. A central issue to this debate is a dispute over a concept called net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle that Internet providers shouldn’t discriminate against traffic from particular sources. With new net neutrality rules being proposed in the U.S. and Europe, telecommunications companies such as AT&T Inc. in the U.S. and Deutsche Telekom AG in Europe want to make sure that Internet users’ choices are not restricted by the provisions to these rules, and that the rules do not hinder the ability for telecommunications companies to roll out new services.
Telecommunications companies want to be able to set aside part of their infrastructure to sell advanced services from particular technology companies that they create contracts with. A recent example of this is how Netflix Inc. recently made a deal with Comcast Corp. to pay them in order to make sure that Netflix’s content streams smoothly, directly connecting with Comcast’s network.
In contrast, technology companies say that plans like this have the high possibility of leading to a two-tiered Internet, causing inconvenience. A representation of this idea would be an Internet where some types of content are available at higher speeds when paid for by providers, and other content getting slower service because providers don’t pay. Technology companies are fighting for more clear net neutrality rules in order to ensure that practices like this stop and are prevented.
A focal point for telecom companies and technology firms in the net neutrality dispute is “where to draw the line between the broader Internet and private services that telecom operators offer,” according to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Sam Schechner and Ryan Knutson, who are in attendance at the Mobile World Congress exhibition.
Many people in the business expect data consumption to continuously increase, with a potential two-speed Internet and capacity concerns likely to become realities.
Information from The Wall Street Journal was used in this article.