Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Fiber to the premise obsoleting net neutrality debate
A ruling this week by a federal appellate court blocking U.S. Federal Communications Commission rules barring Internet service providers from effectively erecting toll gates and speed bumps as revenue enhancement mechanisms is likely to fuel the policy debate on the proper role of the Internet: whether it should be regulated like a public thoroughfare -- the infrastructure of an increasingly digital economy -- or as a private, profit producing asset.
Investor owned, rent seeking providers such as telcos and cable companies will naturally gravitate toward business models that treat digital Internet traffic as a limited commodity that must be broken down, packaged and sold in discrete bundles and flow rates. The more data and the faster the flow rate, the higher the price.
The big problem for this business model is it's being obsoleted by technology. Fiber to the premise (FTTP) infrastructure is the emerging standard for delivering Internet to homes and business customers. It does not have the inherent limitations of metal wire and cable infrastructure, where a rational, technology-based argument can be made for treating bandwidth as a limited commodity. Once FTTP infrastructure is in place, adding more capacity can be accomplished at relatively negligible cost.