Broadband and Over-the-Top

Plum Consulting has released a really excellent and concise paper on the impact of over-the-top services on the telco business model. It’s entitled (appropriately) Over-the-top – hindering or helping achieve European Digital Agenda goals? If you read me on a regular basis, you will find a lot of the arguments exposed there to be familiar. What I find interesting though is the way they’re framed.

Brian Williamson who wrote the paper notes something important, and that is that the rate of growth of internet traffic, both over fixed and mobile networks is slowing down considerably. The source for this information is Cisco’s own Visual Network Index, hardly a source that could be suspected of downplaying traffic growth. Indeed, there’s a note by Karl Bode on that same topic that’s a little more direct, shall we say. He called it So Much for that Exaflood, Huh? I wish Andrew Odlyzko was still compiling internet traffic growth data like he used to: even back in 2008-2009 he was pointing out that actual growth numbers were systematically lower than predicted growth numbers.

All this to say that the argument that telco lobbyists constantly use that traffic growth is killing them is nonsensical: traffic growth is now lower than the capacity growth enabled by equipment renewal!

Anyway, Plum Consulting’s piece is on the point and recommends three complimentary policy actions (and I quote):

  • Promotion of the principle that consumers should have access to lawful applications and content of their choice.
  • Limiting use of the term “internet access” to those access providers who offer full and non-discriminatory access to lawful internet based applications.
  • Extending the concept of equivalence to internet applications in addition to network access and requiring equal treatment for over-the-top and vertically integrated services.

That last point goes above and beyond anything we have seen in policy circles ever on this topic, and I don’t dream of ever seeing it applied unless telcos start embracing OTT as a delivery mechanism for their own products and services (which some are doing, albeit quietly).

But even the first two bullets, which seem kind of straight-forward, I don’t believe will be implemented. As I wrote this morning in a ZDNet France article (in French) entitled Transparence n’est pas Neutralité (Transparency isn’t Neutrality), Neelie Kroes’s discourse shifted from protecting a neutral internet to demanding an internet where discrimination is transparent.

I’m not optimistic.

 

Photo Credits: CC Claremont Colleges Digital Library