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Net Neutrality: Don’t Bet Your Business Against It

poker handNet Neutrality: A Force To Be Reckoned With

OTT (Over-the-Top) content (notably video) on the public Internet continues to tie up yet more of the public Internet capacity. Infrastructure providers, however, are wary of investing heavily in new infrastructure capacity since with net neutrality they have little chance of monetizing these investments.

On their side, OTT content providers, as well as commercial cloud service providers and e-retailers, have not been able to contribute directly to funding such public infrastructure improvements either, because they have no direct way of gaining priority access to any additional capacity, again due to net neutrality policies being enforced in both the US and Europe.

Carrier attempts to block some types of traffic on their networks, as well as indirect incentives to ‘zero-rate’ specific content and services, have led to financial penalties from government watchdogs.

Most recently, the Authority for Consumers and Markets in the Netherlands has imposed net neutrality fines on the country’s two largest operators, KPN and Vodafone. It fined KPN for blocking various services, including VoIP, on its Wi-Fi hotspots, and Vodafone for zero-rating its data charge for subscribers watching HBO on their mobile devices.

Similarly, the Slovenia telecoms regulator has fined Telekom Slovenije and Si.mobil for ‘zero-rating’ a music streaming service and a cloud storage service in violation of the net neutrality principles in the Electronic Communications Act.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

So, what new service opportunities can be explored that could justify new carrier infrastructure investments? The answer may lie in carriers developing more holistic service orchestration capabilities that support a wider range of enterprise IT services, thereby shifting customer traffic from the public best-effort Internet to QoS connectivity that carriers can monetize.

Enterprises need to avoid business models that involve preferential treatment or zero rating on best-effort connections

A core message of SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Networking) and Open Networking is to significantly reduce the total cost of ownership model, especially operational expenses. The SD-WAN architecture goal is to enable a secure hybrid WAN architecture that allows for dynamic traffic engineering capability across private and public WAN paths as specified by application policy, prevailing network WAN availability and/or degradation at transport or application layer performance. When assessing their WAN service provider strategies, enterprise decision-makers should look for carriers that explicitly recognize the need to expand their ability to address the end-to-end user experience across public and private networks, and who are willing to shift network architecture structure options to users.

SD WAN Must Open For Business

The fundamental shift is to embrace software-led network developments exemplified by SDN, NFV and the emerging SD-WAN architecture, which seeks to enable an open networking ecosystem across multi-vendor equipment. Corporate IT should ensure that their service provider is up to the task of providing 24/7 WAN availability with consistent and deterministic levels of network performance metrics across both fixed and mobile, as well as on public and private networks. Carriers that succeed in integrating fixed and mobile network access with common SLAs and single point of contact, and who are able to give business customers more direct control of their WAN connectivity, can charge premium pricing rates – especially if this flexible performance can be linked directly to revenue-generating business activities. The classic example here is ultra-low latency networks for financial trading activities and retail PCI-DSS services.

Enhancing Orchestration Skills

Similarly, in order to support the business customer focus on application performance, carriers need to provide connectivity and professional services that support end-to-end performance across heterogeneous networks. Providing SLAs on application performance is a lot tougher than network SLAs, but the customer dialog may prove well worth the effort and help carriers hone in on where their real value lies. This could be anything from WAN optimization to better encryption services or data sovereignty assurance that meet corporate governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) requirements.

This of course ties into the whole field of orchestration — aligning customer business priorities with their applications, data, and infrastructure. Typically orchestration defines the policies and service levels through automated workflows, provisioning, and change management – and then goes about delivering them.

So WAN connectivity is anything but dumb pipes these days. Enterprise dependency on their corporate network as well as customer network access is increasing. Enterprise IT should look for carriers willing to invest in SD-WAN infrastructure and put more effort into understanding enterprise revenue drivers.

Image credit: WikiMedia Commons /CC-BY