Recently an important announcement was made by the FCC in regard to what is known as “net neutrality”. The principal behind net neutrality is simple: no entity on the internet should be treated more or less favorably by internet service providers when it comes to traffic flow. Small companies pushing out 1 mbit/s should have their traffic expedited and treated with the same care as large companies pushing out the same 1 mbit/s traffic flow.
To me this seems like common sense. As a small business owner, we have enough going against us in comparison to the big guys. We have less people on our support staff, we have less people monitoring and keeping our servers running, and we have less staff fixing our software.
Now we have something else to worry about. It seems that the FCC thinks that it is a good idea to pursue a policy that is sure to create even more disadvantage for small businesses who don’t have the money to pay off big telco and cable companies to provide a “fast route” for their traffic. If this becomes a permanent FCC policy change, and our traffic is relegated to slower peering points because we can’t afford to pay the big guys the fees they want for simply passing our traffic through links that are not congested, we’re in big trouble and so is the rest of the fledgling 3d virtual world and VR industry.
VR and virtual worlds are especially sensitive to latency and packet loss. Our services deliver realtime, interactive, 3d environments. We do our best to make sure that we’re sending traffic efficiently, and try to minimize packet flows that don’t need to be sent for state changes and movement. However, if ISPs begin randomly dropping our traffic just because we can’t afford to pay every ISP a special fee, our services will quickly degrade to a point where they’re no longer believable, where the world no longer feels right, and where the immersion is disrupted by jerkily moving, false looking objects and interactions. Drop more of our traffic and we’ll be forced to waste even more money and time debugging problems that are being intentionally created at the network level.
Startups are already strapped for resources. How is this a good idea?
If this is the future of the internet, it will surely kill off many startups in the United States that have a requirement for connections with reasonable latency and low packet loss. If Facebook’s purchase of Oculus Rift is any indication, our breed of interactive services are the future of traffic on the internet. Messing with that traffic might just count all of us in the USA out of the great 3D and interactive tech boom that will most likely first be developed and tested by startup companies. Being an internet startup based in the US could actually become a hindrance for companies wanting to work on the bleeding edge. Is this really good for the country?
In closing, in my opinion the internet doesn’t need to become a place where only the guys with the most money are able to pass traffic around with reasonable guarantees. I have a hard time believing that these huge telcos with 6 billion+ dollar profits are hurting by having to update their infrastructures without additional income from every company that wants to pass traffic through their networks. There has to be a happy medium here.