Some time back, at the time when every network operator was publicly flirting with the CDN space, British Telecom (NYSE:BT, news, filings) indicated it would build its own content delivery network rather than buy or resell an existing CDN's services. Whatever they did after that has been pretty quiet, until their new wholesale Content Connect product came out. A Financial Times article immediately pounced on it, with supporting quotes suggesting that BT is now providing ISPs with the tools for a two-tier internet in violation of network neutrality principles. Ooh, that sounds like trouble right? BT responded quickly. But what is this new product exactly?
BT says Content Connect -- being trialed by its retail arm and soon to be offered to external wholesale customers -- delivers better-quality service by storing bandwidth-hungry content like video closer to end customers.
Yep, it's caching content closer to the customer to improve speed and quality. BT is trialing its CDN. BT isn't helping clarify the difference either, having stated:
Contrary to recent reports ... BT's Content Connect service will not create a two tier Internet, but will simply offer service providers the option of differentiating their broadband offering through enhanced content delivery. BT supports the concept of net neutrality but believes that service providers should also be free to strike commercial deals should content owners want a higher quality or assured service delivery,
Yikes, when you put it that way, it sounds like a fast lane doesn't it? Well.... yes. As I've said before, one man's CDN is another man's fast lane. No toll booth or fiddling with undesirable traffic is required. The fallacy here is the belief that we don't already have a two tiered internet. Content that pays up for a CDN, whether it is via an independent like Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM, news, filings) or an incumbent like BT, simply gets there faster - for a fee. It's been that way for almost a decade now. The difference of course is when the CDN and the last mile get paired up, and there is definitely some unfinished business on that front.
Pssst, don't tell Julius...
BT isn't the only incumbent working on this sort of thing. AT&T has a CDN, Verizon was working with Velocix, and Teliasonera has something going on too. All have been pretty quiet, but perhaps 2011 will be a bit noisier.