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Is Verizon's Net Neutrality Challenge a threat to VoIP?

Updated on September 19, 2013

Verizon and Net Neutrality

The biggest reason for the success of the internet has been the fact that any person can use it to offer any kind of product or service to consumers. As long as the connection - wireless or wired - is paid for, any company or individual could compete on a level playing field. In order to keep the internet free and open, the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C) has specified certain rules on net neutrality. Net neutrality is the simple principle that ISPs should treat all network traffic equally and should not discriminate on the basis of device, users, content or application.

This topic has led to fierce debate in the last decade and it looks set to continue with Verizon going to court against the regulations of the FCC. ISPs have long argued that having invested billions in building their networks, they should be allowed to charge more from certain companies who might be willing to pay to have their content delivered faster to customers. However, in the absence of such net neutrality regulation, ISPs could slow down the speeds for all content except the ones which have been paid for by content providers. It would also stifle competition, especially if the ISP also offers the same service as other companies. As can be expected, this has serious implications for enterprise traffic.

Verizon and Net Neutrality
Verizon and Net Neutrality

Implications for VoIP

Right now, an organization is free to choose VoIP providers based on features like business VoIP extensions, pricing and business needs, independent of its internet connection. Suppose one vendor is paying to have its VoIP calls delivered through an express lane, which smaller providers cannot afford. Then that service could provide superior quality, leaving no choice to any business but to select that vendor only. Since that VoIP vendor is now paying the ISP for delivering their calls, it could easily pass on the costs through higher prices to their customers. In effect, you pay once for internet access and then pay again for being able to use other services on the network.

The scenario becomes even worse if the ISP itself starts offering VoIP services. In theory, the ISP could throttle speeds of all services that compete against its own. This could easily lead to monopolization, which inevitably ends in higher prices for all customers. It is clear that the results of Verizon’s court battle against the FCC will have far ranging implications for any type of service delivered over the internet, not just for consumers but for enterprises as well.

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