Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, Agile Computing, Cloud Security, SDN Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

Carriers, Apple, Google, Microsoft... Fighting Over Slices of the Pie

Part 3 | Do the bit-carriers really have an open playing field to do what they want?

Much of the dialog over net neutrality seems rather dated. This is understandable, since the debate has been going on since last century.

The January 14th Federal Appeal Court decision in favor of the Internet access providers gave those companies (apparently) a degree of latitude to selectively block or prioritize edge provider services. We know that they want to do this, even though they might be coy about admitting it. Verizon, the plaintiff in the recent appeal case, issued a statement saying that nothing much will change as a result of this decision. We all expect Verizon and the other ISPs to take advantage of this change to the maximum extent they can. If they don't their shareholders might be a bit upset, after spending all that time and money.

However, there's more to this than the presence or absence of the FCC's now depleted Open Internet Rules, now substantially demolished. Do the bit-carriers really have an open playing field to do what they want? Since this debate started, the Internet has moved on. As a result the expectations of the access service-providers on one side, and the network neutrality proponents on the other, may both have to be revised. In my last blog on the topic of net neutrality, I hinted that there might be other factors in play that could make the whole concept less simple than it was when the topic first became hot. One of these factors is the role (and power) of the device manufacturers. Let's start there.

Apple was one of the first companies to demonstrate that there's more than one way to build a walled garden. While the Internet access providers dreamed of an end to net neutrality so they could control and charge for the flow of media from edge providers to content providers, Apple and others have already succeeded in doing something similar, and without spending huge amounts on legal actions and lobbying. And without upsetting their customers much, either.

In the mobile world, users of iPhones are pretty much limited to the apps chosen by Apple and offered in the Apple App store. By and large, those Apple-selected apps, which often dominate the users' experience, define the edge providers that the iPhone can access. Of course, general-purpose web browsing is still available, but most people live quite happily within the walled garden of apps approved by Apple. Apple led the way in circumscribing user behavior in this way, but the fashion quickly caught on. Android users have the Google (Play) store, and Windows Mobile users have the Windows Phone Store.

We can see the same thing happening for fixed-line Internet customers using desktops and notebooks. Oddly, Linux users were the first to experience the app-store approach. Some Linux distributions have long provided their users with an easy route to install approved applications from online repositories; non-approved apps are still available, it's just harder work to get them. With recent releases of Apple OS/X (Snow Leopard onward), the default way of buying software is via the Apple store; buying direct from a third-party vendor is starting to feel like a rather exceptional thing to do, as users are challenged when they try to bypass the store and have to tweak some security settings to make it possible to install a non-official app. From Windows 8.1 onward, Microsoft Windows users have their own App store too.

I don't believe there is anything suspicious going on here. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the open source community are all aiming to make life simpler and easier for users, and at the same time create a user environment that is more structured, and controlled. These large corporations and communities are not forcing users into these walled gardens. They are enticing users to come inside and be safe and comfortable. For most ordinary users, this is seen as a fair trade: a win-win situation. Users can always take a walk in the wild woods outside if they want to, it's just that increasingly they don't want to.

Meantime, the US access providers have been busy in their efforts to remove the constraints imposed on them by the FCC. Now, theoretically, they are free to block and favor edge providers as much as they like. Well, perhaps not completely. Google, Apple, MS, and a lot of other companies in the web-connected device business have already built up their own portfolio of favorite web-enabled apps, providing device users with information services, online games, social networking, streaming media services, cloud services and more. Any attempts by the bit carriers to block or favor any of those online services would impact on the perceived value of all those net-connected devices, one way or another. The device manufacturers are now a firmly established part of the Internet value chain, and as such they will not be passive. If an access provider wants to provide preferential service to an edge provider, then the access provider needs to be sure the preferential user experience is not thwarted by the user's device. Or, if an access provider wants to downgrade an edge-provider's service it might be prudent to clear the ground with the device companies first, because they will want to know whom to point the finger at when their device users complain that certain apps no longer work the way they used to.

It seems that the Internet access providers might have to tread carefully here. Today, access ISPs are differentiated just by price for bandwidth, not much else. As long as the service is passably reliable, users can use any ISP. But, by definition any level of blocking or favoring will make a difference. It must, because if it didn't make a noticeable difference, no edge provider would pay for it. The device manufacturers are bound to take notice. Worst case, the device companies can explicitly tell users which ISPs will provide the best user experience for their devices and portfolio of apps, and which are to be avoided. Best case, the access ISPs will have to share the loot with the device vendors to keep them happy.

Either way, it will be interesting to watch the game. Starting with the iPhone, the device companies have mostly called the shots when it comes to defining the user experience. It's not likely they will be content to see this court decision changing that substantially.

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud, BUSS. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda was CMO of MetraTech, now part of Ericsson. At MetraTech, Esmeralda was responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution for enterprise and SaaS products, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. She was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of resource and service control software, now part of Extreme Networks.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


CloudEXPO Stories
Every organization is facing their own Digital Transformation as they attempt to stay ahead of the competition, or worse, just keep up. Each new opportunity, whether embracing machine learning, IoT, or a cloud migration, seems to bring new development, deployment, and management models. The results are more diverse and federated computing models than any time in our history.
On-premise or off, you have powerful tools available to maximize the value of your infrastructure and you demand more visibility and operational control. Fortunately, data center management tools keep a vigil on memory contestation, power, thermal consumption, server health, and utilization, allowing better control no matter your cloud's shape. In this session, learn how Intel software tools enable real-time monitoring and precise management to lower operational costs and optimize infrastructure for today even as you're forecasting for tomorrow.
"Calligo is a cloud service provider with data privacy at the heart of what we do. We are a typical Infrastructure as a Service cloud provider but it's been designed around data privacy," explained Julian Box, CEO and co-founder of Calligo, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Isomorphic Software is the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications. We develop, market, and support the SmartClient & Smart GWT HTML5/Ajax platform, combining the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simplicity and reach of the open web. With staff in 10 timezones, Isomorphic provides a global network of services related to our technology, with offerings ranging from turnkey application development to SLA-backed enterprise support. Leading global enterprises use Isomorphic technology to reduce costs and improve productivity, developing & deploying sophisticated business applications with unprecedented ease and simplicity.
While a hybrid cloud can ease that transition, designing and deploy that hybrid cloud still offers challenges for organizations concerned about lack of available cloud skillsets within their organization. Managed service providers offer a unique opportunity to fill those gaps and get organizations of all sizes on a hybrid cloud that meets their comfort level, while delivering enhanced benefits for cost, efficiency, agility, mobility, and elasticity.