In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile

Though action has not yet been taken, it is starting to look as if Indian Internet regulators will eventually put an end to “zero rated apps” that have proven effective ways of introducing non-Internet users to the benefits of using the Internet.

So here we have an issue of “good things” in conflict. One is the notion that innovation is promoted when every app has an “equal” chance of being discovered and used (even if, in practice, that rarely is true, or possible).

The other good thing is the ability to provide people access to useful apps without those people having to pay.

And it appears one or the other of those good things will not be lawful, eventually.

Should such a framework remain in place for a long time, more new apps are going to move away from “Internet” delivery, though. Some apps work better when quality of service measures are available. And some apps might have life-threatening consequences if absolute low latency or bandwidth is unavailable.

Such apps will move away from the public Internet.

Other elements of network neutrality also remain as unclear as ever. The same practice–expediting the delivery of content bits–can be lawful in one context, and unlawful in another.

In U.S. practice, it is always lawful to accelerate or prioritize the delivery of some bits, or block access to some apps, when the user is a “business.” It always is unlawful to do those same things if the user is a “consumer.”

“Managed services” that use IP, but are not “public Internet apps,” such as carrier voice or video subscription services, can prioritize bits and provide quality of service. “Internet apps” cannot be prioritized.

It is fully lawful for an application provider to use a content delivery network that improves the performance of an application. But retail Internet service providers are prevented from providing exactly the same service.

In fact, network neutrality rules also constrain the ways value can be provided to customers and Internet users. Some interpret the rules as forbidding the offering of “free” apps to people, no matter what the backend business relationships between Internet service providers and app providers.

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