Streaming Video & Net Neutrality
According to Sandvine, via Connected Planet, “Netflix video streaming traffic already accounts for more than 20 percent of the downstream traffic in the U.S. between the peak usage hours of 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.”
This provides an opportunity for advocates of Net Neutrality to get real about how they would treat specific business practices, in accord with my view that airy abstraction is the curse of this policy debate. Should carriers be allowed to charge Netflix (or their subscribers) a premium for delivery during these hours? Grant a discount for off-peak use?
It is an axiom of network economics that an effort to support capacity necessary to meet peak use can increase the costs to everyone, and that shifting the temporal demand curve can benefit everyone. That is why the D.C. Metro charges more during rush hour, and why movie theaters have matinee prices.
The Internet problem will become even more acute as the number of mobile devices increases and everyone wants to use scarce spectrum at the same time.
Another specific: “The Sandvine report also noted that peer-to-peer traffic, which the company previously highlighted as the dominant bandwidth force on the Internet, has evolved to include more live peer-to-peer video and TV streaming through services like PPLive, PPStream, StreamTorrent and others. ‘Peer-to-peer is very dominant in Asia now, and it’s starting to grow elsewhere,’ [Sandvine CEO] Caputo said. ‘The upstream bandwidth demands will be higher for this live traffic.’ ”
As George Ou points out regularly, P2P creates many bandwidth problems for other users. As far as I can tell, it is also used almost exclusively for unauthorized downloading of copyrighted content. So do Net Neutrality principles forbid carriers to take any action to discourage it? Again, specific discussion would be in order.
By the way — I don’t know what the NN advocates would say about temporal price discrimination, largely because the definition of NN is vague. I am pretty sure that would oppose any effort to diminish P2P, since the most vigorous advocates of NN, such as Free Press, also want to discourage protection of content.
Connected Planet is running a virtual forum on telecom next Tuesday — this issue might furnish some useful discussion fodder.