Though some view net neutrality as a myth, there's no denying its potential as an international headline-grabber.
Major industry players such as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Orange (NYSE: FTE), and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) have been making the net neutrality news in recent months. (See TW Cable Slams Netflix's 'Super HD' Policy, Is This a Turning Point?, and Open Internet Groups Slap AT&T in the FaceTime.)
There's no doubt that operators, regulators, and consumers are using the concepts of a neutral Internet and fair usage for both corporate and political finger pointing. Net neutrality becomes harder to define as modern-day services become more complex and operators look to any means to increase their revenue and monetize the data that is flowing across their networks.
The debate is not just one-sided, as all parties involved are filing complaints against one another. And when regulators are slow or fail to react, the debate becomes even more heated.
In North America, OTT players such as Google and Netflix continue to be at the heart of the debate, as Google is now trying to block third-party devices and Netflix is making exceptions for its special HD service. At the same time, ESPN is also heating things up and is rumored to be in talks with various carriers about its content not counting toward data caps.
Meanwhile, AT&T has also pushed buttons with its blocking of certain Apple services on its shared data plans.
In Europe, the European Commission continues to make net neutrality announcements that are confusing and which cause outrage amongst the region's operators and informed consumer groups. (See EC Proposes the Connected Continent.)
These ongoing clashes prove that the notion of net neutrality is still very important to all those involved, and, as I note in my latest report, now is the time for regulators to adapt their rules in a way that accommodates modern services and pricing plans. (See "Net Neutrality: Recap of the Past Year.")
In turn, operators need to work around updated and newly defined regulations, keeping in mind how they will affect their network applications and operations such as packet shaping, provisioning, pricing, and billing, as well as their online charging, real-time mediation, network intelligence, security, and policy management.
— Sarah Wallace, Analyst, Heavy Reading