The rules came out yesterday from our friends at the FCC. They are complicated and a long read and I am slogging through them. The place I want to start is where the rules say that they do not cover and that is Interconnection Agreements. In the vernacular, these are called Peering Agreements.
In the public view, this is where things all started. Comcast and Netflix. In the industry, it was based around the overturn of the last set of rules. But John Oliver and the broader public think of Interconnection. Now, I think the notion of Peering is a good one. In particular, the notion of a “peer”. The noun peer has a definition of: a person of the same age, status, or ability as another specified person. In the world of the Internet, it meant that traffic would flow between two entities and on about equal basis.
Just as a counter example, let me bring up the phone network. In the older world of the telephone, the company where the call originated collected the money. It passed along to all the companies involved in delivering the call to its destination any money owed along the way. That way the resources used to deliver the traffic was paid for on each step along the way. The Internet works differently (in general) here. The originator of traffic pays their service provider. Intermediate ISPs are not paid for traffic that transits their networks. As long as traffic is relatively symmetrical, there is no problem. It is a “bill and keep” model.
Along comes Netflix. People watch videos in bulk from Netflix and on Youtube (which is owned by Google). Netflix hired Cogent to create a Content Distribution Network and send out the requested videos to customers. This created a massive imbalance. Netflix was a huge source of traffic and almost none was being sent back. Many of the other large sources of traffic, like Google, have significant direct relationships with the major ISPs. Netflix did not and this caused a significant amount of tension, most notably with Comcast. Given the popularity of Netflix, this is what caused all manner of distress with the public.
But now, this kind of thing is NOT going to be covered by Net Neutrality. I suspect that we will see this being a problem again, but not for a long time. As I posted a few weeks ago, it turned out that Cogent itself was the cause of the problems seen by Comcast customers with Netflix. So, not regulating these agreements is probably the right way to go for now.
Now we can start talking about the rules as written and the other end of the problem: Universal Broadband Access.
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