Net neutrality is the principle that all web traffic is treated equally. The current debate around the issue is focused on keeping major internet service providers (ISPs) from becoming content gatekeepers by favoring their own services while throttling the traffic of others.
While content providers such as Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon appear to be on the side of the consumer, they already favor their content through the use of content delivery networks (CDNs). This complicates the net neutrality issue.
CDNs are server groups that store, or cache, data from large providers in order to serve content more quickly to the end user. This also allows prominent sites to load faster. Several companies offer CDN services, but CDNsun offers streaming CDN services that can benefit many content providers.
It is estimated that by 2021, 71 percent of global internet traffic will flow through CDNs, which is a 52% increase from CDN traffic in 2016 (Cisco Systems).
Frost & Sullivan analyst, Dan Rayburn, said the reason CDNs complicate the neutrality issue is because they have the capability of discriminating against traffic or simply stopping it altogether. He added that the Open Internet Order of 2015 was short sighted because it only applied to ISPs (Morning Consult).
While most of the talk on neutrality in Washington centers around Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, Rayburn said it misses the point. He stated that a more rational approach would be to address the issue with everybody involved, including transit and backbone providers as well as streaming CDNs.
Industry analysts said that although Title II has been a sticking point, the larger issue is how the rules do not address the agreements made between content providers and ISPs and the CDNs that store and push the data.
Tech firms, however, argue that CDNs don’t require the same regulations as ISPs because CDN technology is available to anyone who wants to invest in it. CDN services bring content closer to the end user and reduce congestion on the main routes for content delivery, creating a better experience for everyone.
FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly said he supports legislation to settle the net neutrality issue for good. He added that a conduct policy that does not set clear rules will not benefit anyone.