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Akamai to TRAI: Leave us out of Net Neutrality regulations

CDN provider Akamai has requested telecom regulator TRAI to exclude CDNs from Net Neutrality regulations. CDNs essentially optimise delivery of content through arrangements with ISPs — in other words, they are ‘middle mile’ networks. Most Internet companies use CDNs to distribute their content. While most companies contract a third party CDN like Akamai or Cloudflare, some, like Google and Netflix, build their own.

“CDNs are not an Internet service”

In its filing, Akamai has asked TRAI to exclude middle mile services like CDNs from Net Neutrality regulations. It argues that other regulators in the US, Europe, Brazil, and Japan have done the same. The filing recommended that Net Neutrality should only apply to Internet providers that serve individual consumers. “[A]ny net neutrality principles or rules adopted in India should apply only to Internet access service, which should refer to a publicly available electronic communications service provided by a telecommunications service provider (TSP) in India that is offered to end users on a retail basis,” the filing argued.

“Let Internet providers pick and choose CDNs”

Akamai said that ISPs should be able to pick and choose which CDNs they partner with, and on what terms. In other words, Internet providers should be allowed to connect with some CDNs while refusing to connect with others. This, Akamai argues, is because “[i]f ISPs were unable to differentiate among CDNs in this way, it could potentially mean that ISPs would not allow any CDNs network access because they would be unable to find the physical space to accommodate all CDNs, which would slow Internet performance and work to the detriment of Internet users.” In practice, this could create an uneven playing field, as the end-user experience of content providers using different CDNs might suffer from differential treatment.

The Centre for Internet & Society, in their filing, argued against CDN regulation that worked off of “non-level playing fields” that are created when CDNs pick and choose which networks to interconnect with. Net Neutrality regulations should take into account “discrimination on the basis of networks“, CIS’s filing argued.

“CDNs are incapable of discriminating”

Working off of its own definition of “Internet services”, Akamai argued that CDNs are, by their very nature, not capable of “blocking, throttling or prioritizing traffic on [ISPs’] network”. As such, Akamai argues, since they don’t provide Internet services to end-users at all, they should be excluded from Net Neutrality regulations. Citing a BEREC report that said that all CDN–ISP interconnection agreements happen on an ISP’s backbone, Akamai argued that “any potential net neutrality violations […] occur in the ISP’s […] network, and are not reflected in Internet interconnection.”

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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