Australian competition watchdog will help net neutrality: Cisco

As more and more devices connect to the internet, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will have a role to play to ensure internet traffic is not discriminated, according to Cisco.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will help fight against network operators engaging in anti-competitive behaviour in their traffic management, according to Cisco's vice president of global technology policy, Dr Robert Pepper.

Pepper is in Australia to launch the company's 9th annual look at IP traffic projections for the next five years.

According to Cisco's VNI Global IP Traffic Forecast for 2013-2018 released this month, Australia will see a 2.7 times increase in IP traffic between 2013 to 2018, from 0.38 Exabytes per month, up to 1.04 Exabytes per month.

The number of internet users in Australia will jump close to 30 percent from 17 million to 23 million in that time, due in large part to immigration, Pepper said.

"That's huge, because already there's a high adoption rate, but when you look at the population growth with immigrants, Australia is just growing. That's really important," he said.

The number of devices connected in Australia will almost double in that time from 99 million to 175 million. That will mean almost seven devices per person, but Pepper said that many of these devices will be machine-to-machine.

Average broadband speeds in Australia in that time across fixed and mobile networks will increase from 15Mbps to 44Mbps in that time, Pepper said, with 81 percent of all IP traffic in Australia being video, through either IP video on demand, or internet video.

Image: Cisco

"Australia is really one of the leading edge adopters of video online," he said.

Although 4K television is still in its infancy, and will require higher broadband speeds far out of the reach of many Australians today, Pepper said he predicts that ultra-HD video streaming will account for 9 percent of IP video traffic in the country by 2018, with the bulk of video streaming split between HD and SD.

The rise of machine-to-machine connectivity, and the growth in streaming video leading to a growing disparity in overall traffic growth and peak traffic growth means that network operatror will need to be smart in how they manage network traffic, Pepper said.

"You have all of these smart devices hanging on the network, but the network is going to have to be smart enough to be application, device, location, and user aware, in order to maximise the quality of experience," he said

"Networks absolutely need to be managed; not all bits are created equal."

Traffic by device type
Image: Cisco

But he said network management should not be interpreted as traffic discrimination, as Netflix is currently battling against cable operators in the United States. He said some services are time critical such as emergency services, and some require low latency such as online gaming, and those services needed to be prioritised.

He said that some countries had taken the definition of net neutrality too literally, meaning it is harder for network operators to manage their networks to cope with peak traffic.

"The problem is that in some countries in order to protect those things, they've gone so far to the extreme, they'd regulated technology and limited network management to the point where they want to treat all bits equally and as a result it is going to harm consumers because networks won't be managed to handle congestion," he said.

"Australia has avoided this. This is very good news from a policy perspective. You have a very, very strong consumer protection [commission] in the ACCC."

He said the competition regulator wasn't afraid to take on companies engaged in discriminatory behaviour.

"The ACCC is not shy. There is a mechanism to prevent and punish bad behaviour, so you don't need new laws, and as a result, the ability to manage networks in Australia."

Yesterday, ZDNet reported a submission from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network to the government's competition review that stated Telstra's unmetering of Foxtel video streaming, in combination with Foxtel locking out competitors from a number of popular US TV shows, would lessen competition in Australia between the telecommunication companies.

Pepper said that no new laws would be needed to protect net neutrality in Australia because the ACCC already had the power to stamp out anti-competitive behaviour.

"If you have strong institutions, like you do in Australia, you don't need new strong legislation, what you need is the ability to have the open and transparent complaint process, fast adjudication, and the enforcement capability," he said.

"That is absolutely necessary because if there is bad behaviour, someone needs to come down on it, stop it, and punish it [but] that's not inconsistent with having good network management.

"In Australia today, that balance exists."

Editorial standards