Edge providers are individuals and entities that provide content, applications, services, and devices accessed over the internet. An edge provider can be a personal blog created by an individual or a website created by a billion-dollar company. Some edge providers sell products or subscriptions, while others sell consumer data or use it for digital advertising. Edge provider activities, conducted on the “edge” of the internet—hence the name—are not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Edge providers rely on internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile carriers to deliver content tousers. Some companies that operate as ISPs have become edge providers, and a few edge providers with substantial financial resources have become or intend to become ISPs. This has the potential to affect competition among edge providers, as an ISP may have incentives to prioritize content from affiliated edge providers. To deliver content at speeds similar to edge providers associated with ISPs, unaffiliated edge providers may choose to incur the costs of direct connections to users’ ISPs. Other unaffiliated edge providers may build or pay to use another company’s content delivery networks, which use geographically dispersed servers to deliver online content and services more quickly. Mobile carriers that also serve as edge providers can also have a competitive advantage. For example, they can include their own apps on mobile devices for free, while charging other edge providers a fee. Mobile carriers can also allow users to access content from affiliated edge providers without incurring charges on the users’ data plans. These actions could affect net neutrality, a term associated with the concept that all data traveling through the internet should be treated in a nondiscriminatory manner.