Geoff Huston is one of the very few people making sense of why the Internet is evolving as it is. His speech to the ENOG conference last year on the Death of Transit shows how the fundamental forces are playing out. Content services are replacing carriers. Pay attention - there will be questions later.

What this will signify for legislative change (Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts, for instance) is a matter for us to figure out. I suspect it will not be obvious.

Borrowing from his article on his website,


Moving further up the protocol stack to the environment of content and applications we have also seen some revolutionary changes over the past decade.

For a small period of time the Internet’s content and carriage activities existed in largely separate business domains, tied by mutual interdependence. The task of carriage was to carry users to content, which implied that carriage was essential to content. But at the same time a client/server Internet bereft of servers is useless, so content is essential to carriage. In a world of re-emerging corporate behemoths, such mutual interdependence is unsettling, both to the actors directly involved, and to the larger public interest.

The content industry is largely the more lucrative of these two and enjoys far less in the way of regulatory constraint. There is no concept of any universal service obligation, or even any effective form of price control in the services they offer. Many content service providers use internal cross funding that allows them to offer free services to the public, as in free email, free content hosting, free storage, and similar, and fund these services through a second, more occluded, transaction that essentially sells the user’s consumer profile to the highest bidding advertiser. All this happens outside of any significant regulatory constraint which has given the content services industry both considerable wealth and considerable commercial latitude.

It should be no surprise that this industry is now using its capability and capital to eliminate its former dependence on the carriage sector. We are now seeing the rapid rise of the content data network (CDN) model, where instead of an Internet carrying the user to a diverse set of content stores, the content stores are opening local content outlets right next to the user. As all forms of digital services move into CDN hostels, and as the CDN opens outlets that are positioned immediately adjacent to pools of economically valuable consumers, then where does that leave the traditional carriage role in the Internet? The outlook for the public carriage providers is not looking all that rosy given this increasing marginalisation of carriage in the larger content economy.