The outcome of the "net neutrality" issue currently up for debate among US lawmakers could slow down the burgeoning software as a service (SAAS) market, according to industry analysts and companies.
On one side of the debate, large service providers such as AT&T are petitioning US lawmakers for control of any services that go over their pipes, on which the Internet runs. On the other, companies offering Web-based services and consumer advocates believe the Internet should remain neutral because if it does not, service providers can create a fast lane for their own broadband services, and a slow lane for other companies providing services over the Web.
Some industry watchers at the Software as a Service Summit in Napa, California, said the prospect of carriers requiring SAAS companies to pay a premium for faster networks could slow general adoption. This is because it will require SAAS companies to rethink how much they are willing to pay to deliver their services, as well as how much to charge customers.
"Companies will have to decide if they are willing to pay a premium for those services," Wohl Associates analyst, Amy Wohl, said. "If the Internet splits, it will slow some of what happens on the Internet as far as [application] development and will cause pricing issues."
Principal and founder of SoftwarePricing.com, Jim Geisman, said a lack of Net neutrality will put more pressure on SAAS companies to ensure the quality of service they provide is high enough to win and retain customers, even if it means paying a fee to carriers on the back end.
Geisman's company helps SAAS companies figure out how to price their offerings.
"If the service level as perceived by the customer degrades, you as a customer don't want to be there," he said. "As a SAAS provider, you have to be sensitive to that."
However, he said that if carriers won their battle to control Internet-based services, it's likely someone would come up with either a technology or pricing model to lessen the impact on SAAS providers and their customers.
Others think that service providers will never win their quest for control of the Web and, even if they do, it won't affect the adoption of SAAS.
OpSource CEO, Treb Ryan, whose company provides enablement for SAAS companies, said that since carriers largely did not control the customers of SAAS companies, the market would never stand for carrier control of Internet-based services.
"If someone went to a customer and said, 'We are going to reduce your access to applications over the Internet because you're not paying us enough', they would switch [providers] so fast it would make your head spin," he said. "And I find it extremely hard to believe there won't be some [carrier] who says, 'I'm the one you don't have to pay for'."