"Bandwidth is central to data center design and development, and one of the major reasons enterprises invest in these facilities. Adequate network and server support for the many customer-facing applications, services and content delivery systems is part of many organizations' lifeblood.
Net neutrality, which was imposed by the Federal Communications Commission to help regulate Internet traffic, was recently struck down by a federal appeals court as being outside of the agency's jurisdiction. While this ruling has no direct impact on the data center, it could have a slew of trickle-down effects for virtually all of the data center industry's top customers.
On Jan. 14, a federal appeals court ruled against the FCC's net neutrality policy. Previously, broadband providers were classified in a manner similar to telephone providers according to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. However, as cable and telecommunications providers expanded their service offerings, the FCC continued to alter the way that these companies were classified while upholding a neutrality policy that prohibited them from prioritizing one type of Internet traffic over another. The FCC's decision to categorize Internet companies as information services, rather than telecommunications providers, is what led to Verizon filing a suit against the FCC and overturning the policy, which the appeals court ruled no longer applied to Verizon and similar entities.
What Could Happen Without Net Neutrality?
This decision could have far-reaching implications for Web traffic, bandwidth usage and ultimately the way the Internet is structured. Previously, several providers have announced their intentions to curb certain traffic or exact higher charges for the network capacity certain heavyweights use, especially if they are in competitive industries. Liberty Media, for example, which purchased a large share of cable service provider Charter last summer, stated that it would like to charge Netflix more for the bandwidth its subscribers use, according to Wired.
Other providers could deprioritize or essentially restrict access to certain websites, apps or content for any number of reasons, including concerns over legality, copyright infringement, intellectual property, bandwidth spikes or direct competition. It could create an environment in which companies like Netflix either pony up the funds to retain access to a top spot, accept lower bandwidth priority or seek their fortunes elsewhere. There are also several social and economic implications, according to Wired, including decreased access for communities that rely on lower-priced Internet service packages or public facilities such as libraries for online access.
The Rise of a Bandwidth Market?
If net neutrality does not return and tiered Internet pricing comes into being, data centers could end up roped into a bandwidth market. Companies with an entrenched market presence and infrastructure, such as Google and Amazon, stand to benefit more from a bandwidth market, while startups with little existing capital could be effectively barred from leveraging their services, apps or sites from the top tier.
In the data center sector, the bandwidth market could give rise to more shared or managed hosting services that provide top-tier bandwidth access at a more reasonable price. Companies may be more likely to move critical apps and other infrastructure to data centers in order to take advantage of bandwidth availability. It could also create allocation issues, in which businesses have to trade off on another aspect of their operational capacity in order to achieve top bandwidth availability.
At this time, there are still many more discussion points that need further clarification. For their part, the providers that own the majority of the nation's Internet infrastructure have stated publicly that they do not intend to impose tiered pricing on the nightmarish level imagined by some media analysts. However, the net neutrality debate is one worth watching, as it may have numerous implications on the future of the Internet."