In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile, Spectrum

Opponents of zero rating cannot really argue that such policies (exempting data plan usage charges) actually harm consumers, as zero rating provides obvious and clear value for consumers (“something you value for no incremental cost”), so that cannot be the objection.

Instead, zero rating bans are said to be necessary to prevent anticompetitive ISP behavior, or protect app suppliers from unfair competition. The typical language is “treat all apps the same.”

Around the world, clear regulatory differences currently exist. India outlaws zero rating. The United States and the European Union allow it. Most nations have yet to make a clear choice.

A new CTIA-commissioned Harris Poll survey simply confirms what one would expect: consumers like zero rating, even if some policy advocates or app providers do not like it.

The survey  found that Americans would overwhelmingly welcome new free data or sponsored data options that allow consumers to access more content and services without counting against their data plan.

Some might object to bans on zero rating and “best effort only” Internet access (a basic requirement for all present network neutrality regulations) for several reasons.

From a consumer standpoint, some apps work better when prioritized access is possible, especially under conditions of high network load.

The reason IP voice does not work as reliably, or as well, as legacy voice is precisely that the bandwidth, jitter and delay cannot be lawfully optimized, in many instances.

Carrier voice, as a  “managed service,” generally is exempted from Internet access net neutrality rules. But that is the point: quality often requires management and prioritization.

Proponents on all sides can make arguments about how any policies restrict or enable innovation. What proponents cannot do is argue that any one set of policies–other than relatively complete freedom–simultaneously support innovation by every segment of the Internet ecosystem.

Net neutrality rules simply choose to restrict ISP freedom and innovation so that app provider innovation is enhanced.

Consultant Martin Geddes has argued for some time that service provider platforms essentially could be likened to resource trading platforms, where, “rather than selling raw mechanisms, telcos can sell (proxies for) different levels of QoE outcomes and associated business risk.”

Network neutrality rules obviously are a challenge to such roles, as the ability to create different products hinges on the ability to clearly create performance distinction. Network neutrality rules bar the creation of such distinctiveness.

“This demand-centric service model allows for managed user QoE risk, with tiered QoE levels linked to ability to pay,” says Geddes. “The billing model evolves from pure quantity to variable “quantities of quality” with different resilience levels.”

In this model, what is traded are “quality of experience” products. And network neutrality rules make creation of such products unlawful.

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