The vexed problem of neutrality and CDNs raised its weary head again this week - seemingly on the occasion of Telenor's announcement of its new, high speed broadband access services. By Ian Scales.
According to web site Ars Technica, Telenor had dusted off a version of the old Ed Whittacre peroration on "them dang Web companies using my pipes for free... and we ain't gonna let them do it."
According to Ars, the entire thrust of Telenor's approach was to get Google to pay.
"In an interview with the business daily Dagens Næringsliv, a Telenor exec made the usual case: YouTube uses too much traffic and it needs to compensate ISPs for it.
"The regime for distribution of data content is free for the sender, and this must be changed," said Telenor's CTO. "For the content providers it means that they will have to pay to make content available online, regardless of how much they send."
A call through to the Nordics today elicited stiff denials. Whatever had been said by Telenor's CTO to the business journalist was apparently a mis-speak. And no, Telenor had not reneged on the neutrality principles it signed up to in 2009.
The system at the heart of the issue is its CDN (Content Distribution Network) service. This is being run in fair competition (on a level playing field) with Akamai and the other CDN providers and, anyway, it's been around for ages, it claims.
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According to Telenor's Senior Adviser on TV and services in Telenor Norway, Erik Jensen, the issue is starting to be a bit like the movie Groundhog Day.
"We've actually been offering CDN services in the Nordic market for several years," he says. "There's nothing new in this, but it keeps coming back (as part of the neutrality debate) over and over."
Jensen told me that as far as Telenor was concerned, users were the ones opting for prioritisation for specific content. On that basis, he claimed, the option didn't run foul of Norway's agreed neutrality principles because there was no 'paid-for' discrimination imposed by the operator on the provider.
But wasn't there justifiable concern that, over time, a species of two-tier Internet will emerge with only the large, powerful content-providers using the CDN and being present in the top tier? I asked.
"The big difference here in Norway and the Nordic region is that we have real competition between access providers," claims Jensen. "This is not like the US where in some regions there is only really one or two providers."
That would ensure that a cheap slow lane didn't become the norm since competitors would soon offer better best effort services for the same or even lower pricing.
But wasn't there still an issue with CDNs and peering?
"Yes, I think there should be a more equal regulatory focus on cacheing and CDNs," said Jensen. "What we need here is more transparency so we might urge the regulator in that way." But as far as the neutrality principles Telenor signed up to in 2009, there is no change.
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