The Multi-Speed Internet is Getting More Faster Speeds

Published April 29, 2014

The Internet has long had multiple speeds. And it constantly gets faster speeds via technological and commercial innovation, competition, and investment.

The Internet also has long met people’s diverse needs, wants and means for speed, with different technologies, pricing, and content delivery methods, and it will continue to do so.

Net neutrality activists’ latest rhetoric that opposes the FCC’s court-required update of its Open Internet rules, by implying that there haven’t been “slow and fast lanes” on the Internet before, is obviously factually wrong and misleading, both for consumers receiving content and for entities sending content.

Many in the media have fallen for this mass “fast lane” deception without thinking or questioning it.

First, isn’t it odd that those who routinely complain that the Internet is not fast enough oppose genuine FCC efforts to make the Internet faster?

Moreover, isn’t it ironic that the net neutrality activists — who have long criticized the FCC for the U.S. falling behind in the world in broadband speeds, and long advocated for municipalities to create giga-bit fast lanes for some communities — vehemently oppose FCC efforts to create “faster lane” Internet for those entities that need it and are willing to pay for it?

Do net neutrality activists really want a faster Internet, or do they want a utopian Internet speed limit designed to enforce Internet speed equality by preventing anyone from going faster on the Internet than anyone else? 

Second, Internet consumers have long had their choice of multiple Internet speeds.

Different technologies inherently offer different speeds. Fiber is faster than cable, cable faster than DSL and DSL faster than dial-up. Wireless speeds are very different depending on the protocol, LTE, 4G, 3G, 2G, etc., and depending on the amount of spectrum available and the number of people using a given cell at any given time.

Since people naturally have diverse wants, needs and means, the Internet marketplace has long offered consumers different market prices for different Internet access speeds, different amounts of usage, and different discounts for buying more than one service in a bundle.

The Internet also offers consumers different speeds for free-of-charge Internet access, depending on what public or private institution’s free WiFi one wants to use and how many others avail themselves of that free-of-charge Internet access at any given time.  

Consumers know there is not one Internet speed. They know there are many speeds depending on whether one wants to pay nothing, something, or varying options of paying more.

Third, Internet content providers also have long had their choice of multiple speeds. Since the late 1990’s there has been a vibrant and diverse marketplace of content delivery networks (CDNs) that content providers of most all sizes can pay for to ensure faster Internet delivery of their content.

This is generally accomplished by geographically-locating server farms closer to consumers in order to ensure their content can arrive faster and avoid congestion. But CDN competition continues to encourage a wide variety of innovations to ensure faster Internet delivery.

Importantly, the largest corporate users of downstream bandwidth, Netflix and Google-YouTube, which together consume half of North America’s downstream bandwidth per Sandvine, have long paid others to ensure faster Internet service for their customers, than others would get without the additional cost they pay to achieve faster Internet speed and performance for their users.  

Finally, net neutrality activists’ obsession with imposing an Internet speed limit to guarantee equality of transmission, completely ignores that content providers have other technical attributes besides speed that they must have to compete and best serve their customer bases over the Internet.

Cloud companies’ customers tolerate near no downtime, so they may need and want to pay for specialized higher quality-of-service than Internet “best efforts” can deliver. Video streamers and video conference call providers may need guaranteed faster speeds and specialized quality-of-service to prevent jitter or buffering problems.

Gaming companies and Voice-over-Internet (VoIP) providers may need prioritized specialized services to ensure real-time quality-of-service without latency. Health care providers may need specialized services for a variety of very-high bandwidth and usage needs to immediately send and receive massive files like MRIs with no downtime.

In sum, the Internet has long had multiple speeds, faster and slower Internet lanes, to naturally meet the diverse needs, wants and means of those who use the Internet.

Imagine how silly it would sound if some activists said it was unfair and anti-competitive to have faster delivery of mail and packages? That next-day service or priority-expedited-delivery by the U.S. Postal Service, Fedex, UPS, or DHL, should be banned by government because it would stifle the next innovative company in a garage, because they could not afford it and thus it would infringe on their freedom of speech?

The dispute here is not over freedom of speech; it’s over opposing definitions of “free.” Net neutrality activists define “free” here as no-cost use of the Internet, where others define “free” as the freedom to access the legal Internet content of their choice. 

Internet speed limits, designed to force a zero-price on all downstream traffic via FCC price regulation, are unnecessary and antithetical to a faster Internet.     


[Originally published at Precursor Blog]