How The End of Net Neutrality Could Impact Enterprise VoIP

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At the end of last year, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to put an end to net neutrality which restricts the ability of ISP’s to limit internet traffic. That was a contentious decision that is likely to be challenged in court and will be watched closely by all other countries. The change should be of concern to anyone who depends on the internet for their communications including the entire enterprise telecom industry.

Fast lanes

Net neutrality rules meant that ISP were not allowed to provide so-called “fast lanes” for some traffic or arbitrarily throttle other traffic. This means voice and video data moved across the internet with the same level of service as all other kinds of traffic. This has forced ISP’s to provide enough bandwidth so that there was enough to enable video traffic to have reasonable service levels.

Higher priority traffic

By doing away with net neutrality, Netflix for example could contract with ISP’s to deliver its video services at a higher priority than say VoIP packets from your service provider. Moreover, ISP’s could decide they will slow down packets from VoIP providers that do not pay them a premium. Alternatively, ISP’s could simply ask you the end user to pay a premium for VoIP services delivered by your ISP.

Issues likely to occur

If you are running an enterprise the worry is when employees or customers try to use your communications services outside of your internal network. When net neutrality was in place, the overall VoIP experience was a good one. Now that the rules could change, random issues could appear. For example, your employees that are working from home or remotely may suddenly find they have terrible voice quality because of restrictions placed by one or more ISP that is interconnecting the conversation. This possibility is very real for hotels etc.

Video conferencing likely to be hit

It is highly likely that the increased bandwidth required to deliver modern HD-based video conferencing will be severely affected. Conferencing traffic that is downgraded to a low priority level along with general web video will see quality dramatically impacted. If ISP’s decide to classify VoIP service provider’s traffic as high priority through service level agreements, then there should be no problem. However, the cost of doing this could be quite significant and there is no guarantee that service providers will get end-to-end QoS.

Keep an eye out

VoIP traffic is likely to be negatively impacted by the new rules governing net neutrality. Everyone should be on the lookout for changes that are likely to affect the business. All enterprises should consider how they use the internet and how the end of net neutrality could impact their operations.