From a network architecture standpoint, fast lanes aren’t that useful if you’re managing your network effectively. From a marketing perspective, however, they might be quite useful as a way to sell “premium” access to content providers.
This creates two fundamental problems. Allowing fast lanes gives ISPs a perverse incentive to boost revenues by allowing their networks to congest. It also gives them outsize power to pick winners and losers on the Internet. Those who can’t pay for fast lanes will suffer, entrenching incumbents while undermining the innovative power of the Internet. While the largest ISPs have said they’re not interested in creating fast lanes, one need only look at how they have sought to monetize their network interconnection points to get a glimpse of the future.
It is at these points — where our traffic enters an ISPs network — where Netflix and others have been forced to pay Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner access fees to reach our mutual customers. Without those payments, ISPs allowed these connection points to congest, resulting in a poor video streaming experience for Netflix users on those networks. While Netflix was able to meet the demand for payments, we continue to believe this practice stands in contrast to an open Internet and all its promise.
Right now, there are no paid fast lanes on the Internet. That’s a good thing. A large part of the debate about net neutrality is focused on ensuring it stays that way. If ISPs are allowed to sell fast lanes, competition for various Internet sites and services will become less about the value of what’s offered and more about who can pay the most to deliver it faster. It would be the very opposite environment than the one the Internet created.