Net Neutrality Is Already Improving Internet Connections And It Hasn’t Even Gone Into Effect

Though the FCC narrowly voted to approve the new Open Internet Order (AKA net neutrality) several months ago, the rules don’t actually kick in until June 12. Yet with those new guidelines looming, some Internet service providers are already beginning to play nice with the companies that do most of the heavy lifting for the web.

Earlier today, Verizon announced that it had reached a new interconnection deal with Cogent, a company you may have never heard of, but who plays an important role in carrying data across the Internet. Cogent is one of the major bandwidth providers for online businesses, transporting massive amounts of data from the source to ISPs like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Time Warner Cable, who only handle much of your data for the so-called “last mile” to your home or office.

Cogent was caught in the middle of the openly nasty dispute between Netflix and several ISPs, including Verizon. The company was responsible for much of Netflix’s bandwidth, which can sometimes account for around 1/3 of all downstream traffic in the U.S., but when that data got to the peering points — those connections where Cogent actually hands off data to an ISP — it was becoming bottlenecked because the ISPs were refusing to open up additional connections to alleviate the flow.

Netflix ultimately ended up making deals with Comcast, Verizon, TWC, and AT&T for more direct access to their networks, taking some of the burden off Cogent and similar providers. Meanwhile, the question of whether ISPs could passive-aggressively allow data to bottleneck remained unanswered.

The new neutrality rules will allow companies like Cogent to file complaints with the FCC because ISPs will officially be reclassified as common carriers that are not allowed to discriminate when it comes to the data flowing to their end users.

Whether or not those complaints end up being successful, it appears the mere threat of having to deal with them is pushing toward resolutions in advance of the enactment of the neutrality rules.

For example, while the Verizon/Cogent deal includes provisions for adding capacity and establishing new interconnection locations between their two networks, Cogent says the agreement does not involve the exchange of any money.

Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer tells Ars Technica, “We have never paid for peering, and we continue to never pay for peering.”

Schaeffer also said that Comcast — the first to reach an interconnection agreement with Netflix — has recently been the most reasonable of the large ISPs, opening additional ports as capacity demands. However, AT&T, TWC, and CenturyLink are not playing as nice.

Ars notes that Verizon recently announced an interconnection deal with Level 3, another major bandwidth provider that could have filed a complaint under the new neutrality rules. It’s not known whether that arrangement involves any money.

Though the threat of neutrality complaints is apparently helping nudge some ISPs toward agreeable resolutions, Schaeffer says he may end up having to take his concerns before the FCC if companies aren’t willing to work with him.

“I sincerely hope I don’t have to file any, but I am also prepared,” he tells Ars. “If any of the mass market ISPs violate the consumer protection provisions outlined in the Open Internet Order, we will go to the Enforcement Bureau and file a complaint.”

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