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Could Apple’s new ISP connection deals be linked to its plans for online TV?

In order to secure a faster, more streamlined delivery method for its multiple content platforms, Apple is rumored to be negotiating paid interconnection deals with big-name ISPs, according to a report by analyst Dan Rayburn. The report comes as Apple has been slowly building up its own Content Delivery Network (CDN), which, combined with the connection deals, could point to something new brewing from the tech giant – possibly in the form of a new video service.

Rayburn, who has numerous connections in both the CDN and ISP industries, claims that “it won’t be long before we start seeing a portion of (Apple’s) content getting delivered from their new CDN.” Back in February, Rayburn reported on a batch of new Apple hires, “all of whom have a deep background in building out large-scale networks,” tasked with crafting a new CDN for external use,” i.e. delivering Apple content to customers.

Until recently, all of Apple’s CDN developments have been focused strictly on internal functions. As for getting content to its customers, Rayburn notes: “Historically, Apple has always relied on CDN providers Akamai and Level 3 to deliver Apple-related content including apps, iTunes video, and software updates for their iOS and OS X platforms.” But since the beginning of 2014, Apple has apparently been deploying “a lot of boxes running Apache Traffic Server” and purchasing heavy amounts of transit, and other infrastructure services. The report speculates the creation of its own CDN may be a way for Apple to gain more control of its content delivery, possibly due to issues it’s been having with iCloud.

As for its connection deals with ISPs, Rayburn didn’t disclose any specifics as to which providers are currently in negotiations with Apple, though you can likely connect the dots for yourself by looking at recent history. Netflix also created its own CDN, called Open Connect, to link up its massive flood of streaming content directly with ISPs in order to solve congestion issues. But the popular streaming service ended up having to shell out fees to larger ISPs like Comcast and Verizon in order to secure smooth streams for their massive subscribers bases.

However, in contrast to Netflix, which has since denounced such deals as an affront to Net neutrality, or a free and fair Internet, Rayburn asserts that Apple is going about securing its own deals quietly and without complaint. Of course, when you’ve got pockets as deep as Apple’s, it makes paying such connection fees a lot easier to stomach. Rayburn also asserts that other large tech firms with their own CDNs, such as Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and Microsoft also pay connection fees to larger ISPs without complaint, as part of the cost of doing business. The issue has been a hot one recently, as the FCC debates new Net neutrality regulations.

The news of such fervent work in recent months by Apple to build up a fast track for content delivery also sits right in line with rumors that the company is working with Comcast on a new TV service, which could blend traditional viewing methods such as live TV and on demand content, with streaming apps and services, and content delivered from the cloud, all from one feature-packed device. It’s not too much of a leap to speculate that such plans are contributing factors to Apple’s new push for a speedier way to move content on the Web.

We’ll have to wait and see what becomes of Apple’s new road map for faster content connection, but while there’s definitely a good deal of mystery surrounding the moves, its clear that Apple is looking to streamline all of its content delivery for a wide customer base. Exactly what that will mean in the broader scheme when it comes to the future of its basic services, as well as its future plans for TV and video streaming, remains to be seen.

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