The ISP Dilemma Continues
Some time ago I wrote a post about the challenges facing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) over whether they can afford to be the police of the Internet, with respect to helping find and stop persistent abuse of content, and other illegal online activities by their users. This is still a serious issue today, particularly in light of the cloud, hence the urge to revisit that post here.
The biggest challenge then was around the growing perception of ISPs as de-facto gatekeepers of the Internet, which effectively added another layer of complexity to their traditional / core business. As a result, not only do ISPs have to deal with existing and non-trivial issues (e.g. declining markets, convergent evolution via multi-play business models, and issues around increasing broadband / bandwidth consumption), they also have to contend with the fact that:
- Content owners still want ISPs to play a more central role in preventing, detecting, monitoring and punishing illegal file sharing (e.g. via schemes like the infamous three strikes proposal).
- Various initiatives by governments around the world, such as the UK’s Digital Economy Act, are put in place to help provide much needed governance and teeth to the need for ways to monitor and combat illegal activities including copyright infringement.
- There still are also signs of lack of trust by ISP customers over service quality / charges, and potential invasion of privacy
These all add up to a severe headache for ISPs, and may be made even worse when you throw cloud services into the mix. Some of the options, or combinations thereof, that ISPs have used or considered using to deal with these key challenges include:
- Targeted advertising schemes – preferably via opt-in models as a way to help subsidise the cost of service. In some cases even extending to much cheaper or even “free” access, for your usage information, of course.
- Industry self regulation – Still not easy to do, but one that would benefit the entire industry, and help address the pressures from content owners
- Network Controls – Invest in better ways to track, monitor and control or “shape” network traffic, in order to deliver better quality of service, promote fair use, and support law enforcement
- Partner with content owners – To explore new and more flexible content business models. E.g. a survery found that music fans might actually prefer ISPs as their music supplier. However the advent since of cloud based music and streaming services may have changed that landscape somewhat.
In any case, it is still advisable for ISPs to bear in mind the following three points in trying to deal with this dilemma:
- Do not alienate or irritate the customer – protecting the customer relationship and keeping their trust is still key to future success
- Resist excessive external pressures – Content owners need ISPs as much as ISPs need them, and perhaps even more so
- Take the initiative – ISPs should be more proactive in creating customer-pleasing, regulator-friendly propositions and business models (perhaps by working closely with consumers and content owners)
Overall, there is no easy way to slow down the natural evolution of the Internet, and cloud services, therefore ISPs need to do more to understand, evolve and embrace what is really a critical niche in the digital content ecosystem. The cloud is here for all, and it is here to stay.
Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE