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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Edge caching - is it neutral?

A thought on caches and whether they breach net neutrality - responding to the December controversy in the US with Google's plans to push content to the edge.

Two elements of this are important - if Akamai is now an 'SME solution' , based on the idea that the big boys like Yahoo!, Google, and BBC 'Project Canvas' (if it lives on after dead Kangaroo) install their own servers with ISPs, then does the big boy solution fall foul of net neutrality? 

Well, first, Akamai's network remains the best Content Delivery Network (CDN) out there, in an increasingly competitive market. 

Second, should there be FRAND regulation of these caches? FRAND = Fair Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory Access. The idea is that if Google can build such servers - well, add a rack or two - then so should everyone else, if they wish. Obviously this should be paid for by content providers to ensure equality - Disney can't get BT to pay it for the content OR the server. 

This is a well-known principle in for instance LLU regulation - so use it for caches too. The little guys will continue to rely on the good old WWW and get there at usual speed. Or have I missed something?


Anonymous said...

First, thanks for picking up my comments. Turns out lots of the issues that seem to be top on mind over there are essentially a crock when you get closer to the technology. In particular, bandwidth has gotten so cheap that the net neutrality argument is almost moot for the large wireline carriers that dominate. There is some level at which bandwidth use becomes a problem, and some limits are perfectly sensible. Which is why I mention that 250 gig is reasonable, although it turns out to be unnecessary because so few top that the effect is negligible.

The problem in Britain is not that the networks can't handle the volume at reasonable cost, but that the backhaul charges are between 300% and 1200% for most carriers except the four large enough to have their own fiber backhaul - CW, Sky, and Virgin (in territory).

The answer to a problem like that, as I think you see also, is to make sure the backhaul markups are more like 50-100% than 500-1000%, at which point most of the problem goes away, as it has in the states.

The trick to looking at this is to get the real numbers on bandwidth cost and use. Things look different then. dave burstein

chris said...

Thanks Dave, yes quite agree - I worked with Daves Reed and Clark, Bill Lehr and Jon Crowcroft on the demised Cambridge-MIT work on bandwidth/traffic issues, and the level of those charges is totally disproportionate. I hope Ofcom are reading!