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Why changing rules of the internet could be ruinous for Irish startups

If net neutrality is ditched outright, we would all have a very different internet experience. Put simply, it could allow Eircom or UPC or Vodafone to slow down our access to any company's website if it didn't pay a new premium.

In other words, Eircom could stream RTE's website much quicker than TV3's because they got some sort of payment from RTE.

Or it could stream both broadcasters' websites quickly but slow down a startup rival's site because it couldn't afford to pay the new charge.

Not surprisingly, telecoms companies want this type of system to be introduced.

It could mean new revenue streams. And the biggest content companies - such as Netflix, Google and Facebook - could live with it too, because they have lots of cash which they could stump up. So who would lose? Small companies and cash-poor startups, mainly. If you couldn't afford a bunch of premium payments, broadband operators could make sure that your business's website would be stuck in a slow lane for anyone trying to access it.

Of course, this is just one outcome.

And, to be fair, there are some sensible arguments in favour of treating certain types of traffic differently to ensure a decent broadband experience for all broadband users.

For example, the most recent industry data shows that Netflix and YouTube, between them, take up approximately 50pc of internet traffic. For you and me, these are cheap or free services. But they are now costing operators a fortune.

And it's only going to get worse: Netflix will soon start showing so-called 'ultra-definition' video at the '4K' technical standard. (This is the equivalent of showing a movie in crystal clear definition on an 80-inch television.)

So the operators are wondering, not unreasonably, whether they can start laying extra charges at the door of such massive bandwidth hoggers.

But this would change the fundamental nature of internet access and could jeopardise startups. Instead, maybe we might all have to pay an extra euro for our broadbannd. But many might feel that it is worth it.

Irish Independent