Imagine how the web and the services running on it would look like if sending packets was like sending a letter, that piece of paper you put in an envelop and stick a stamp to it. Priced in a similar model, you would pay for the size, weight and the priority in which you want your packets to be delivered in.
There will be no need to imagine if net neutrality will change and the Internet “fast lanes” come to life.
Stacey Higginbotham from Gigaom wrote a great post about how the airline industry’s fee model for bags, seats, food… is not really payment for better service but actually, degradation of basic service to a level that makes travellers’ experience so miserable that many will prefer to pay extra to avoid it. The limitations imposed on broadband services might take us in the same route as we experienced in air travel.
Impact on innovation
For many of the OTT services we use today (video streaming, internet radio and music and video communication) broadband and their ability to send their media to end users without needing to pay for priority was an important pillar in their capacity to start their business and succeed although they were very small and bootstrapping.
Using asymmetric business models they are not able to charge per usage but rather are typically required to build a significant user base before able to monetize. Being able to send media over the Internet in reasonable QoS without being required for deep pockets is mandatory for enabling new OTTs to innovate.
Similar to the airline industry, allowing companies to pay for higher priority for their service over their competitors will eventually lead to bad service for those not paying.
Why is this important for WebRTC
The whole idea behind WebRTC is that it allows web developers to easily add real-time voice, video and data communication features to their web application and service. The cost of doing this is dramatically reduced with WebRTC because you get a WebRTC implementation in the browser and you are free from worrying about royalties and patents (no need for deep pockets). Given the delay sensitivity of real-time communication, once some traffic sources will be discriminated, real-time communication services will not be able to settle for the basic middle seat, no food, no checked-in bags package on the Internet aircraft but rather will need to pay to play. This in turn will lead to bad user experience and failure of many services. Thus, innovation will suffer.