Plum report shows charging for content would harm innovation

Argues that access to net content should be kept open and on an even playing field for all
Kerry Butters

October 6, 2011
internet

The BBC, Blinkbox, Yahoo, Channel 4 and Skype have joined forces to produce a report to promote the open internet.

The Plum report considers the idea that content providers should pay a premium to networks in order for them to access their services.

Whilst networks maintain that the open internet and content which takes up bandwidth is damaging, the report argues that growth in both industries has been driven by consumer demand.

As the networks have moved from dial-up to ADSL and beyond, this has meant that richer and streaming content can be accessed by consumers.

It is this accessibility to content that has driven consumers to make more use of the internet and promoted growth and innovation in both content providers and networks.

The report proposes that a series of guidelines be put in place which protects “open access to and distribution of internet-based, lawful content and applications for consumers; (with) no blocking of legal services and discrimination on the basis of commercial rivalry.”

It is also suggested that regulators such as Ofcom should “closely monitor market developments given the risks to innovation.”

The principles which already protect the open internet include the “ability of end-users to access lawful internet content or applications of their choice” and that those who produce content can provide it without asking for network permission.

The report argues that content such as streaming and on-demand TV services, YouTube, Skype and music have all added up to ensure that the open internet has provided a platform for innovation across the board.

The success of such companies as Skype has added to the worldwide economy and the growth in demand has meant that costs to the network suppliers has been dropping incrementally.

This means a “virtuous circle between innovations in relation to network enhancement and internet-based content and applications can be expected to continue.”

The report goes on to say that this circle will only continue if networks don’t undermine the growth “through discrimination to protect their own integrated voice, text and video services.”

It seems that a number of myths have held up policy on these issues, including the one that demand is a bad thing and another that says costs to networks will “balloon” if streaming services are not throttled in some way.

Another is that application providers are enjoying a “free ride”, which, the report states, is wrong as providers have invested in networks as well as streamlined their services to be as bandwidth efficient as possible.

This debate has given rise to a number of misconceptions concerning the “value chain” with regard to content and networks.

The report concludes that a departure from the open internet would significantly outweigh any of those offered by “alternative models.”

Whilst moving away from the open internet model as it stands would serve to potentially benefit networks, it seems it would be of little to benefit consumers as content is either “throttled” at certain busy periods or charged for.

Charging large companies such as the BBC or Skype might not mean we would lose them as consumers, the danger to innovation and indeed availability, is that many content providers would simply disappear.






 

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