ISP Impact: Challenges for the American Enterprise
The U.S. internet market doesn’t hold up well compared to global averages: South Korea tops the charts at more than 25 megabits per second average download speed, while the U.S. ranks 10th at less than 20 Mpbs, according to Recode. As noted by Business Insider, part of the problem stems from an ongoing debate about whether the internet is a public utility or a consumer product.
U.S. broadband offerings also suffer from a lack of diversity, with a handful of internet service providers (ISPs) dominating the market. This makes it challenging for American enterprises to find the best ISP to fit their needs. Here’s a look at the current market and how organizations can get the most out of their internet provider’s offerings.
Enterprises just getting connected or considering a provider switch should ask potential ISPs five key questions:
- What’s Guaranteed? When it comes to download and upload speeds, ask for specifics. Differences between expectation and reality can seriously impact business objectives.
- What’s in the SLA? Service-level agreements are now commonplace, but the language isn’t standardized. Enterprises should have an expert look over the ISP’s SLA for details about downtime, latency and overall performance.
- What Happens When Connections Go Down? What’s the timeline for restoring services after an outage? Are there monetary or other compensations offered?
- What Type of Support Is Offered? Are technicians available 24/7? Where are support teams located? How long does it typically take them to respond?
- What Hidden Fees Exist? Up-front pricing and what’s in the contract don’t always match. It’s worth the time to ask about hidden fees like installation, cancellation and cross-connect costs.
When it comes to ISP options, enterprises are often limited to the big players like Verizon, Comcast, Cox, Mediacom and Spectrum or AT&T. New players such as Hotwire and Suddenlink offer solid high-speed services but don’t cover as much ground, PCMag reports. Enterprises may also have access to more niche providers such as Google Fiber or EPB Fiber Optics, which operate in urban areas and offer significantly faster speeds. However, many major metropolitan areas are still supplied by just one or two broadband providers, Business Insider notes.
Why is there so little choice? First, until recently the Federal Communications Commission defined broadband connections as anything over 4 Mbps, Business Insider reports. This is abysmally slow for enterprises, but the standard allowed major players to keep speeds low by meeting bare minimums. Now, 25 Mpbs is the standard for basic broadband, prompting an overall speed increase. However, smaller ISPs are still struggling, especially those looking to install fiber optic cables or compete against incumbent providers. The combination of necessary permits and frivolous lawsuits forces many possible providers out of business.
Nonetheless, American internet competition is on the rise as broadband expectations increase and public perception backs the notion of internet as critical utility. For enterprises, this raises security concerns. Partnering with an ISP is essential to delivering reliable connections, but what role does the provider play in network cybersecurity?
For starters, recent Senate decisions removed certain broadband privacy rules and made it possible for ISPs to sell consumer data without notification, according to Ars Technica. This presents major concern for enterprises: Are providers collecting data on both enterprise operations and customer interactions and then selling it for profit?
Any enterprise agreement should include specific provisions about the collection and use of data from the company network. There’s also a case to be made for greater cybersecurity ownership from service providers. According to Dark Reading, while too much provider oversight can seem like censorship, ISPs play a critical role in stopping the spread of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks by blocking the practice of IP address spoofing and effectively undercutting any DDoS effort.
The American internet market is often frustrating for enterprises; too few providers and globally subpar service limit effectiveness. But change is coming — user and government expectations are positively impacting competition and giving enterprises more bandwidth for their IT buck.