Why a Tiered Internet Will Be Disastrous for VoIP
Plans by ISPs to Offer a Tiered Internet
Word has arrived out of the United Nations international Telecommunications Union or the ITU for short, that the European ISPs are lobbying for the right to give preferential treatment to certain content providers depending on how much money they receive from them. In other words, if a website wishes to receive preferential treatment from an ISP, they can subscribe to a "premium" package that gives them preferential access to the users. In this model, content providers end up paying for bandwidth consumed by the users rather than the other way around. Or to put it more accurately, ISPs get paid by BOTH the users as well as the content providers.
This is a disastrous proposal. One of the great strengths of the Internet is that it provides a level playing field to every single person who pays the basic minimum for bandwidth from their hosting provider. It means that a small business can compete just as well with a large one if they have a great website and offer an ideal user experience. This democratic nature of the Internet has truly transformed online businesses and has created revolutionary new business models and services. VoIP for example relies on the fact that ISPs make a best effort to deliver all Internet traffic regardless of where it comes from and what type of traffic it is. In other words, ISPs who subscribe to the ideals of net neutrality undertake to be a mere conduit between users and content providers – nothing more.
Outrageous Proposals by ISPs
Think of what it would mean if you as a website owner had to pony up extra cash to ISPs just to ensure that you get equal treatment with companies that are large and powerful like Google and Facebook. In this case not only do you need to pay your hosting provider, but also an extra third-party as well. Another follow-up to this will be that companies will refuse to deliver traffic to those destinations that they deem unprofitable if they have to pay extra for it to reach them. This means that most of the developing world will be cut off from services that they have till now taken for granted.
The scene is bleak for innovative services like VoIP. As of now, ISPs are bound by a fragile legal framework but mostly by the expectations of customers that they will not give preferential treatment to their own services over those provided by someone else. In most cases, ISPs are also the owners of large telecom companies whose products are threatened by VoIP. It is not hard to imagine a penalty or tax being imposed on the services by the ISPs once they are allowed to discriminate. Data only VoIP plans are just around the corner and it's important to ensure that International VoIP policies are not detrimental to the structure of the Internet as a whole.
It's something that we as global citizens need to raise our voice over to preserve our Internet freedoms.