back to article Apple haggles with ISPs for fast lanes to its own websites – industry guru

Apple is the latest firm said to be in talks with US ISPs on a deal to provide direct interconnects for improved streaming media performance. Industry analyst Dan Rayburn of Frost and Sullivan said that the firm has been talking to carriers as part of a larger campaign to build out a content delivery network (CDN) for its …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The interconnection deals would give a direct line from Apple's services to ISPs, allowing the company more control over the quality of services and potentially reducing bottlenecks when streaming content."

    The only way they can guarantee their own service is by taking bandwidth away from others.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first
      Terminator

      It's call the "way of the one percent".

    2. Mitoo Bobsworth

      "...deals would give a direct line from Apple's services to ISPs"

      And at what iPremium to the end user, I wonder.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      <- Not

      "The only way they can guarantee their own service is by taking bandwidth away from others."

      Comprehension fail.

      These companies already pay for huge connections into ISP networks, 100gb interconnects in the main, to ensure connections to their services are only 2 or 3 hops for the EU.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: <- Not

        I see you understand the finer details of the net neutrality argument.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: <- Not

          I see you don't.

          As I said comprehension fail.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            !em kcuF

            You replied & downvoted at the same time. Got to be your best result in the last 10 years I reckon.

            Prawnus maximus.

    4. Yes Me Silver badge

      "taking bandwidth away from others"

      Er, that is how the Internet has always worked. It shares the available capacity out dynamically. That's what the congestion control aspects of TCP are all about. If you rent more bit-carrying capacity from the underlying carriers, you are thereby increasing your potential throughput. So what? That's physics. If Apple's competitors want to increase their potential throughput, they can do the same thing. Whether they can afford to do so is economics. It's kind of hard to argue against the facts of physics and economics.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "taking bandwidth away from others"

        Can't choose an icon as AC, but have a virtual thumbs up.

      2. Rick Giles
        Pirate

        @Yes Me Re: "taking bandwidth away from others"

        Speaking of physics, if the bandwidth is so finite, won't adding more connections just violate the laws of thermal dynamics, i.e You can't get something from nothing... ?

        This is all just a money grab by the ISP's. Just you wait, you will see the benefit of all this... in high fees or more pay walls.

    5. DaLo

      "The only way they can guarantee their own service is by taking bandwidth away from others."

      At this stage this is not exactly how it works. Now I am a supporter of net neutrality, however this at the moment isn't destroying that (companies could already pay to be hosted in the LINX exchange in the UK for instance to take advantage of their peering arrangements)

      The deals these guys are doing should in theory increase bandwidth to all services for users (in the short term). They are getting private pipes from the ISP to the CDN of Netflix or Apple so that the high bandwidth traffic from these sources does not consume bandwidth on their regular internet pipes.

      If Comizon has a 100Gb link to 'the Internet' for its subscribers all traffic is brought down that but Apple and Netflix could consume say 10% of that (and therefore reduce bandwidth for other services by 10%).

      However, if they then add a 10Gb private link direct to Apple's CDN and a 10Gb link direct to Netflix then the 10% on the 100Gb link can be freed up for other services and Apple and Netflix can be sure that when more than 100Gb of data is being requested on the regular pipe their services don't suffer (Based on the road analogies, they are building a new straight highway running alongside the existing one, with no on-ramps or off-ramps between Apple/Netflix and Comizon.

      Once it gets into the Comizon network they are claiming that the traffic is treated the same as the other services and that there is no prioritisation. The subscriber also has their 20Mb link to Comizon that will recieve the Netflix or Apple traffic along with all the other traffic that might be on the line. You would think this would be beneficial for Comizon so maybe the payment is just Apple/Netflix having to pay for the private link and maintenance of it - or maybe it's a split payment between them, whereas in the past the ISP paid for the direct link?

      Either way the worry is that when deals are done between individual ISPs and Content Providers eventually the lure of being able to charge a premium for their content within the Comizon network is too great, or that the regular shared link will no longer be upgraded in favour of private links or even that some services are only available with decent quality from certain larger ISPs without a law stopping it.

      It is creating a private internet between a select few that the subscriber will have to pay extra to access (even if not directly) that is the issue.

    6. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      "...by taking bandwidth away from others."

      So, you people never heard of Akamai Technologies, Inc., in business since 1998? This is exactly what they've been doing, but as a service to anyone willing to pay the bills.

      In response to your claim "The only way they can guarantee their own service is by taking bandwidth away from others."; no, they can run their own network on either their own fibre, or by renting otherwise unused dark fibre, from their servers to the ISP. The ISP can install a wee feisty LAN improvement to bring the data to the end users. The end users are the ones asking for the speed-up, so they shouldn't be whining if one goes up and the other goes down on the last mile TO THEIR OWN HOUSE.

      Parallel networks (provided that they're actually increasing overall efficiency) are a Very Good Thing. Ever Netflix that gets off (even parts of) "The Internet" by making investments is freeing up bandwidth for others.

      It is possible to write rules to prevent abuse. It's much more likely that any new rules will be badly written and counterproductive.

    7. Terry Barnes

      "The only way they can guarantee their own service is by taking bandwidth away from others."

      No. They build a separate, private network that goes directly from their server to an appropriate point at the disant end. They're not taking bandwidth from others, they're bypassing the network those others are using.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wider walled gardens mean price control

    The US net neutrality thing is about creating larger cartels to further increase profits for the few.

    And Apple's stance on neutrality matches their limiting stance on the web browser and the web.

  3. nuked

    "...allowing the company more control over the quality content of services..."

  4. ratfox Silver badge

    Fine with me

    Deals like these only allow Apple to make their own service faster. However, breaking down net neutrality would allow Comcast and the like to throttle their competitors. What they mean by creating a fast lane is putting anybody they don't like on the slow lane.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fine with me

      Deals like these aren't to "allow Apple to make their own service faster", it is legalized extortion. The breakdown of net neutrality essentially gives ISPs the power to demand payments from companies like Apple or Netflix (anyone doing a lot of streaming) under the implied threat that if they don't they might have unhappy customers. All Comcast has to do is take the necessary amount of capacity offline "for maintenance" and they can create traffic jams among those who don't pay whenever they want for however long they want.

      Comcast and other ISPs would be in a position to determine winners and losers. They also wouldn't have to charge companies the same rate. They might say "well the first company to sign up will get a deal, and each company to sign up after pays a little bit more", as an incentive to get companies to rush to sign up, instead risking a wait and see approach that might make them pay several times as much.

      If Comcast launched their own streaming music service, maybe when Apple wanted to renew the deal Comcast tells them the renewal will cost them 10x as much. If Apple doesn't pay, suddenly iTunes Radio works terribly and Comcast customers leave iTunes Radio and sign up with Comcast's streaming service that works perfectly all the time.

      It gives the ISPs power over everyone else on the internet. You can think of it as "Apple paying to make their service faster" if you want, but really they did as insurance against Comcast throttling them and giving their customers a poor experience that they would blame on Apple.

      1. Rick Giles
        Pirate

        @DougS Re: Fine with me

        Finally... Someone with a G#@damn grasp on the Net Neutrality issue.

  5. Combat Wombat
    Pirate

    This is apple

    Having a bet both ways.

    They are looking at the landscape and figuring that having bigger interconnects is not a bad thing, no matter what happens.

    if NetNu dies, they'll have the jump on the competition.

    If it doesn't they'll still have a jump on the competition.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is apple

      The goal is to have bigger, fatter interconnects. Whenever the tech improves you have just got keep to go with it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think different.

  7. Rol Silver badge

    Like a motorway, perhaps?

    Apple wants to increase their on ramp to ten lanes and remove the traffic lights and people are arguing that isn't an issue?

    Where does the traffic go if not down the very motorway my content is chugging along?

    Maybe Apple iSP could be a solution to adding some more lanes to the motorway and off ramps?

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Like a motorway, perhaps?

      No, it's not. Here's the real road-way analogy.

      ComCast City residents want products from Apple City and NetFlix City. More product starts to flow in from Apple and NetFlix city as the residents of ComCast City consume, and ComCast City gains revenue and new residents as a result.

      The roadway from Apple and NetFlix city is paid for by their respective traveling residents, including more capacity from source to destination, and bigger better on-ramps.

      But ComCast City says not so fast, you too. Our population has increased because of the product you are selling to us, and instead of using the funds we receive from our residents we want you to pay for our off-ramps and maybe even build up our infrastructure.

      Now, if the residents of ComCast City who are there because of the easy access to Apple City and NetFlix City product, they will eventually move away. At least, this is how it used to, and should, work. Instead, ComCast City places additional tariffs payable at the city limits for the incoming product. History readily reveals what happens when onerous tariffs are put in place on imports, and ComCast City will eventually realize the deleterious effects.

      The whole thing as ComCast wants it is ass-backward.

      1. d3vy

        Re: Like a motorway, perhaps?

        I prefer to think of it as a bypass...

        So Apple City is on the east coast, ComCast City is on the west cost and linking them is the A233 all along the A233 there are a number of villages so to get to Apple City from ComCast city you have to go through each village.

        What is happening here is that they are buiding a bypass between the two cities with only two on/off ramps (One at either end) so traffic traveling to Apple from ComCast will not have to be slowed down by the old dears that live in GeoCites Village.

        This makes everyone happy as traveling between apple and comcast is faster and the villagers dont have less traffic on their roads to worry about, the villagers can of course still get to both cities on the existing roads.

        What they ARE NOT doing, is fencing off the fast lane of the A233 and saying "Screw you this is for us now" - if they did that then it would be an issue for net nutrality.

        As a side question, why does everything in the IT world simplify down into car analogies so well?

    2. Terry Barnes

      Re: Like a motorway, perhaps?

      No. Apple have built their own private and separate motorway that runs alongside the public one.

      1. NinjasFTW

        Re: Like a motorway, perhaps?

        I would say that its more like Apple pay ComCast City to build them a separate motorway/Lane for them and pay for the maintenance.

        This then provides incentive for ComCast city to spend less on the common motorway in the hopes that other cities will pay for their own dedicated motorways because the existing ones are falling into disrepair.

  8. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    Paying extortion...

    Content providers need to tell ISPs to go fuck themselves. No, really. If ComCast customers cannot stream from iTunes, YouTube, or NetFlix, but someone on AT&T can, seems to me the market would adjust to the fact. If everyone would band together against extortionists like ComCast then ISPs of that ilk will check themselves.

    I see notices on satellite and cable networks every so often about how such-and-such channel will not be carried by such-system and to call to get them to carry the channel. The consumers then call and force such-and-such cable or satellite system to get their act together. Of course, if the channel or network is being bitchy, well, they lose out. It all balances and the consumer wins.

    But then, we see on a nearly daily basis how ComCast feels about its customers. (To some degree I wish I lived in one of those countries where a post like this could get me in the hot-seat for disparaging the company, because I have plenty of stories and personal experience with ComCast to make its collective heads spin. To the point that I will never have ComCast service in my home if my life depended on it. I left cable TV eight years ago and have never looked back.)

    (This could be an opportunity for a competitor, like say Google Fiber, to mosey on in with service which does not extort content providers.)

    Of course, it's people like me who are the target: the cable cutters. The ones who do not subscribe to a 189 channel bundle on cable or satellite of which on average 17 channels get watched, instead choosing to cherry-pick what we want from Internet content providers.

    Once again, the aging, dinosaur, antiquated business practices run to Daddy Government for protection against the big bad consumer who no longer wants their product. I cast off my wool cap long ago, and thankfully we have a few elected officials who actually get it.

    Hey, ComCast and others who would follow in the same steps: adapt or die, asshats. You can only abuse your customers for so long. To you extortion victims: grow a pair, for crying out loud.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Paying extortion...

      Content providers need to tell ISPs to go fuck themselves

      They should, but once one blinks the others have no choice but to follow suit. Once Netflix paid the protection money, it became a lot harder for others not to. I have a feeling that Apple wasn't the only one who called up Comcast after that Netflix deal was announced, they were just the first to get their deal signed. There will be more, because Comcast is in a position of power controlling the speed at which their traffic can reach Comcast's customers.

  9. Charles 9 Silver badge

    I think where things get complicates is where private networks connect to public networks. Take Google. It has a private network through which most of its information flows. Google tries not to pass the data onto public ISPs until as close as possible. IOW, Google has its own backhaul, but to actually reach the users it still needs to interact with the last mile. Similarly, I think Netflix has contracted out a backhaul connection but still needs to negotiate with the ISP concerning use of the last mile.

    Is Apple facing the same situation: trying to connect already-provisioned backhaul to the last mile? If so, how does this fit into the net neutrality debate given most of the networks involved are privately owned and operated. Where's the line between content segregation and overregulation of private not-for-lease lines?

    1. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      "...where private networks connect to public networks."

      C9 - "I think where things get complicates is where private networks connect to public networks."

      Public network? The Internet is 99.999999...% privately owned. There may be some very old sections where some tax-payer money was invested. But basically the entire thing is private property.

      Those espousing overly-tight regulation should keep this in mind w.r.t. basic freedoms such as property rights.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: "...where private networks connect to public networks."

        Public/private as in "Can anyone use the connection or not?" As in a privately- vs. publicly-owned company. Google's network is mostly private: for Google's use only. Meanwhile, consumer ISPs are by definition public.

        Usually, a service open to the public is subject to fairness laws and such to prevent extortion and scalping. Now, where it gets interesting is when a private (for one's use only) net connects to a public one (that anyone can use).

  10. Mike Bell

    Say I developed my own video streaming web farm in my back garden. If I wanted to get its data to the general public efficiently, what would I do? I might talk to my ISP and sort out some big fat data pipe to get it onto their backbone. Just like Microsoft are currently arranging with BT in respect of their massive data centres in Dublin & Amsterdam.

    Why is Apple's approach here any different?

    NB, they keep tight-lipped on many matters, but it's known that Apple make use of Azure and AWS for at least part of their operations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You're thinking too small

      If you only care about getting your traffic to the customers of your ISP, what you suggest is fine. But if your ISP is AT&T, and you want to reach Comcast's customers, without net neutrality you have to negotiate with them even though you aren't their customer. Comcast might not even offer service in the state in which you reside, but if you want a national reach you will have to pay up or risk having them throttle your connections. If what you're selling competes with Comcast in any way, or if they just decide to throttle all streaming video traffic that haven't paid them, you're kind of screwed.

  11. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Net Neutrality is a weird one

    While the principle that a company, certainly one that is the originator of a lot of content, can, or should, pay more for better delivery of their content, is fair, it's potentially problematic.

    Any company can arrange for a high speed link to the Internet. Throw more money at it and you will get better a better link - lower latency, higher throughput, burst capacity provisions and so on. If a business relies on getting content onto the Internet, then it should have a high level of redundancy internally and should also have redundant (physical) Internet connections, therefore multiple arrangements would be made with different ISPs. This redundancy could be used a a fail-over or even to load balance content, or anything in between.

    Few would argue that the above is a bad thing: The company is paying more to provide the amount of content it delivers, which is fair.

    In order to improve efficiency, a company can pay even more money to get closer to the core of an ISP's networking setup. Cutting out a few network hops here and there may not seem that important however every network hop adds latency and slows things down overall and when you talk about a high volume of content, this adds to a lot of potential loss of overall speed and a customer's perception of quality is often dictated by speed, or more accurately the lack of (which makes it outstanding that many set top box manufacturer's still push cruddy, low spec, badly programmed kit). An additional point in favour of this arrangement is that by bypassing network hops that the content provider shares with other companies, it will help to optimise throughput and should improve the experience for these other companies.

    Again, few would argue that the above is a bad thing. The company is paying even more for its connection and optimising the route is sensible on a lot of fronts.

    All this is wonderful if you happen to be a customer that uses the same ISP, or one of the ISPs as the content provider. The delivery of content is optimal and the customer gets a great service. However there are many ISPs and if you're not with one that the content provider uses then you will get a worse service than the content provider would like to deliver.

    A natural solution to improve this situation is to enhance the peering infrastructure that ISPs already have between each other, and it's at this point where it starts to get murky and less than ideal. ISPs are not equal, in size or capacities and the choice of ISP is usually constrained by physical location. On the one hand, it is arguably good that a heavy content delivery company would pay for additional peering from their core ISPs to other ISPs - after all they are using a huge amount of bandwidth. On the other hand, this starts to get into the problem of selecting the ISPs to peer with, which will usually disfavour the smaller or regional ISPs, and the actual implementation of the additional peering... if the content provider pays for additional peering bandwidth, then there are few that would argue that this is bad, however if the content provider starts taking a higher share (or priority) of existing bandwidth then there are definite downsides.

    In the end, it's all down to implementation and control. I believe that a company should be able to pay for better delivery of their services but that it should be in a controlled and regulated manner, should not disfavour smaller or regional network providers and should not impact other content provider's share of existing bandwidth.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Net Neutrality is a weird one

      That's what I was trying to argue in my post above. It's a question of private rights vs. public fairness. Where do you draw the line?

  12. Alan Denman

    the war against the consumer has now moved sideways.

    So, beyond that truce this is the new angle in their all controlling money making scheme.

    Cartels r US, says Apple. Likely they were heavily involved in that net neutrality breakup discussion.

    With billions available, slowing poorer opposition down could well be lucrative

  13. Tom 7 Silver badge

    How long till bandwidth maximum?

    I'm wondering how long it will be before we dont 'need' more bandwidth. There's still a lot of willy waving about 70Meg over 20Meg at home but unless you can watch 17HD films rather than 4 at once most households are close to getting what they really need rather than what they may want.

    I'm on 1.6Meg at the moment and if I dont behave like a spoilt brat and scream NOW NOW NOW I get most of what I want.

    I guess they want to bring these charges asap while they still stand a chance of ripping of as many people as possible.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: How long till bandwidth maximum?

      While you have a point regarding the "last mile" bandwidth, it's getting the data from the Content Delivery Network (CDN) that is the problem.

      In principle there should be no problem streaming 17 HD films down your 70Mb link itself. However those 17 HD films have to get to you from the content provider's network. If 1000 people in your city are also concurrently streaming 17 HD files, then that's 17000 HD films that need to be delivered concurrently, with no or minimal loss of packets and no pauses (buffering during playback); a short amount of buffering is always in place with streaming and this happens as you start the video. That's a hell of a strain on an infrastructure to deliver that.

      1. James 100

        Re: How long till bandwidth maximum?

        For the most part, a faster pipe just means a download is a bigger and shorter spike.

        I started out on dialup. 20-odd megabytes per hour on a good 56k line. Want a Linux ISO? That'll be a day and a half (once I finally had flat-rate dialup). Forget streaming anything: even basic-rate MP3 audio took three times as long to download as to play.

        Then a half-megabit cable modem. That Linux ISO would be three hours, or I could have streamed music or even low-quality video if I'd wanted - or I could download a CD worth of MP3s in about 20 minutes, which actually made mp3.com useful for me.

        Now we're into tens of megabits - I can stream video without it screwing up other stuff or vice versa. Most of the time, though, I'm limited by the far end or bottlenecks in between - even for Akamai downloads - and for the first time, that limit doesn't really matter to me. Do I really care whether that hefty software update takes 10 minutes or 5 to download? Not much - it takes longer than that to install anyway! Even on that 1.5 Tbyte download (restoring from online backup after my home server filesystem went wonky), I just leave it running for a while; it'll get done soon enough, and I can quite happily stream HD video while it's running.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Google Fiber

    That's what all the Americans need, and a good kick in the teeth to Comcast et al

  15. Rick Giles
    Linux

    Everyone.

    Needs. To. Build. A. Wireless. Mess. Node.

    Nuff. Said.

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