When I sold my first Internet T-1 to a business customers a decade ago I was amazed that a business would spend over $800 a month to have their data "go really fast" as compared to what they would get with a slower dial-up Internet connection. Since that first "DIA" (dedicated Internet access) sale of mine the cost of a similar 1.5 meg business T-1 connection to the Internet has plummeted to under $300. Why?
I don't claim to really know why. More capacity, more fiber, more competitors? But does it really matter? As a business owner myself I'm pretty happy that my business phone calling costs is a fraction of what it used to be. And while my data costs are higher than what I used to spend with dial-up Internet, I now appear to have access to more Internet bandwidth than I can use over a consumer grade Verizon FiOS fiber connection out of my home office. Is my business at risk? Maybe - since I distribute a lot of audio and video and use VoIP phone service.
Everything seems fine now but where will I be in a year? Will all my clients be able to view my videos, listen to my audios or even understand me when I speak to them on the phone? I pay for an Internet connection to the "public Internet" but I don't believe I'm paying for the Internet myself. I know when I fill my car with gas, 18 cents of every gallon goes to highway taxes to maintain the nation's highways, but am I paying business taxes somewhere to ensure the Internet stays robust enough so my business Internet traffic is not impeded in any way? I really don't know - but the fact that I'm running my business Internet traffic over the public Internet means I likely won't have much to say about it if and when something goes wrong.
So what do I advise my business clients to do with their business Internet traffic? Pay attention to A) what your Internet traffic consists of, B) how it gets from one place to another and, C) is it a problem if it gets there slow?
Let's say my business is Netflix, a cool little business (at least partially responsible for putting brick and mortar video stores out of business) that distributes an almost unlimited number of huge Internet files (full-length movies) over the public Internet to home users for next to nothing ($8 per month per end-user customer I think.) That appears to be a good deal for Netflix and home users that like unlimited videos for $8 a month. But what about everyone else that needs to use the public Internet for their business while all these huge Netflix videos are flying around?
(Click here to read a story about how two Internet transport providers, Level(3) and Comcast, appear to be at odds with one another over the delivery of Netflix videos.)
Now let's say my business provides medical imaging of some sort where a bunch of doctors get together on a video phone call and look at patient MRIs to make important health care decisions. Is it a problem for me as the medical imaging business owner, the doctors or the patients if it takes forever for the MRI images to load because of the Netflix video traffic the MRIs are contending with on the public Internet? Seems like that would certainly be a problem.
Now even though I use the Internet for my business, I'm not really sure who owns the Internet. I don't think the government owns it. It seems like a bunch of high end telecom carrier businesses own it - which means those same businesses must be paying for it. In any event, whether the Internet is a "public resource" or not, I'm not sure individual business owner or even individual home users have the right to "pollute" the public Internet with Internet traffic that adversely affects the Internet experience of others any more than I have a right to dump sludge into a river or scream "fire" in a movie theater.
So what's a business owner to do when deciding how their Internet traffic should get from "where it is" to "where it needs to go"? If it's important, make sure the bulk of the distance that your business Internet traffic has to travel is over some network controlled (or at least paid for) by you. The alternative is to throw your traffic into a dark hole called "the public Internet" where the only traffic cops are hippies watching movies and anarchists distributing SPAM and viruses.