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Net neutrality would seem to have little or nothing to do with the internet of everything, but that’s only because current debates about “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” have centered around the delivery of video content, particularly streaming video from over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix, which consume a lot of internet bandwidth. Broadband service providers, which typically also offer TV and/or streaming video services of their own, have paid enormous sums to build bigger data pipes. They regard OTT services as a threat in more ways than one: as a potential siphon of their customer base and a burden on networks for which the OTT services have not paid, according to a new eMarketer report, “Key Digital Trends for Midyear 2014: The Internet of Things, Net Neutrality, and Why Marketers Need to Care.”
“In a world where not just conveniences but also essential services are channeled over the web, the free flow of data morphs from nicety into necessity. Framing the net neutrality debate solely in terms of maintaining low-cost streaming video overlooks the bigger picture. Today the issue is video streams, but tomorrow it will be about data streams in general,” said Noah Elkin, executive editor at eMarketer. Cheap streaming video available on demand is a nice-to-have, but when every function of one’s life and work depends on data available on demand, it’s a must-have.
In a not-so-distant, more-connected future, consumers will rely on fast, reliable delivery of data to power their homes and perhaps even direct their self-driving cars. Marketers will count on speed to buy and serve ad inventory; as with brokerage firms, the velocity of transactions will make a crucial difference in margins, fulfillment and success.
If the internet of everything suddenly gets stuck in a slow lane, everyone will suffer. That is why decisions made today by regulators and precedents established between private companies have far-reaching implications.
The term “net neutrality,” coined in 2003 by Columbia University professor Tim Wu, refers to a governing principle that all internet traffic, regardless of source, content or type of data, be treated equally. Key stakeholders in the debate over net neutrality include governments, privately held broadband service providers and technology companies whose applications consume a large and growing share of internet bandwidth.
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