Net Neutrality...Dead?

Net Neutrality...Dead?

By Phil Edholm December 14, 2017 3 Comments
Phil Edholm PNG
Net Neutrality...Dead? by Phil Edholm

Net Neutrality and Your Enterprise VoIP Solution

Today the FCC eliminated the Obama-era restrictions on the ability of an ISP to arbitrarily limit internet traffic. While there are a range of arguments on both sides, as users of the Internet to deliver VoIP-based voice and video real time solutions, the entire enterprise telecom industry should be concerned.

Under Net Neutrality, providers were not allowed to either provide “fast lanes” for some traffic or to arbitrarily slow other traffic. This meant that our voice and video packets moved through the open internet with the same priority and service levels as everything else. The result is that ISPs have generally operated their networks with sufficient headroom to enable the preponderance of traffic that is video to have reasonable service levels.

The elimination of Net Neutrality rules may change that. For example, if Netflix contracts with an ISP to deliver their video packets with higher priority, those packets may be prioritized ahead of your VoIP packets. An ISP like Comcast would be enabled to “slow” packets from a cloud UCaaS provider that does not pay them a premium and competes with their bundled business voice services. Or you may be asked to pay a premium for viable voice or video over IP services by your user’s ISP.

The challenge comes when employees, partners, customers, etc. are using your communications services outside your internal network. With Net Neutrality, the overall experience of VoIP has been generally good on the network. With these new rules that may change. And, as VoIP does not really understand the IP network, these issues may come up in random ways. For example, an employee telecommuting from home or a hotel may suddenly have terrible voice quality due to restrictions of one or more ISP or interconnects in the IP path. This is true for hotels, guest workers, hot spots, etc.

The advent of WebRTC-based services may be dramatically impacted as well. On a recent webinar, Genesys indicated that 20% of their PureCloud traffic was over WebRTC, not the PSTN. How will Net Neutrality impact a customer who clicks on the click-to-connect on your website and the traffic is now limited by their ISP who sells a phone services and tracks and limits VoIP traffic? Will Genesys negotiate preferential traffic characteristics with a full range of ISPs?

The situation may be significantly worse for video with the higher bandwidth demands of modern HD-based conferencing. If conferencing traffic is relegated to a low priority with general web video, the quality may be dramatically impacted. Streaming video uses buffering to hide network latency and packet loss, real time services do not have any way to really mask significant latency or loss. How will cloud video solutions like Zoom perform if their traffic is impacted?
The same issues may extend to VPNs. In China they are blocking VPNs for censorship, but ISPs may see VPNs to circumvent their data gathering operations and classify all VPN traffic in to a low performance class. So, your VPNs to remote sites that operate over the open internet may be adversely impacted unless you negotiate and pay for better carriage.

Clearly, if the ISPs move to provide the ability to classify traffic so our IP-based real time services get the SLA they need to deliver quality communications, all may be well. However, the cost may be significant, both in real dollars and in network and operations complexity. As there are no real QoS-based peering relationships between service providers, purchasing QoS from one ISO may not come with any end-to-end guarantees. The alternative is a potential for VoIP traffic to be adversely impacted by the new restrictions and preferences that may be ushered in by the end of Net Neutrality. We all should be on the lookout for changes that could have major impacts to our entire industry. Every enterprise IT organization should examine how they use the Internet and how the elimination of Net Neutrality may impact their operations.


3 Responses to "Net Neutrality...Dead?" - Add Yours

Brooks Bailey 12/15/2017 8:44:54 AM

I agree with you to some extent VOIP could be impacted without Net Neutrality. Its a complex issue and like you said a range of arguments on both sides. But what the issue boils down to for me is based on historical evidence and fact when government gets involved. History shows that the federal government does not solve problems. They artificially inflate them or create them in order to slowly insert the federal bureaucracy for control-power and to regulate. And while most of our representatives have good intentions at the onset of these bills it usually morphs into something that's does not address its original intentions. Patriot Act, Dodd Frank, ACA, sky rocketing college costs caused Gov subsidies, etc.etc. only a couple examples. I think the bigger concern in a free internet is not having a free internet because of government involvement. Government is the only organization with the unlimited resources, money and influence to assert itself to control a free internet. And once the government asserts itself it never pulls out. Let the ISPs and content providers compel users to value their services or content in an open free market. So I will give up my VOIP QOS for a free internet.
Alan MacLeod 12/15/2017 10:13:01 AM

An alternative view

"With Net Neutrality, the overall experience of VoIP has been generally good on the network." Hmm, voice and video worked over the Internet prior to early 2015/Net Neutrality, so the FCC's recent vote does not mean the end of VoIP as we know it.

The demands on the Internet infrastructure and thus on ISPs has radically changed in recent years. Streamed media breaks the 200:1 over-subscription model that held true for browsing - and VoIP works because it's a rounding error; by contrast streamed media is not.

Providing excess overhead is fine in-building where the cost of cabling is ostensibly the same regardless of speed, but over long distances it has never been the same and vendors have been enabling service providers to provided tiered traffic for decades as a consequence: ATM, MPLS, SD-WAN.

Net Neutrality forces all Internet users to pay for streaming media bandwidth, even if they don't use it. And as the use of streaming media increases, everyone's costs will have to go up. However, enabling those providers and consumers of streaming media to request appropriate treatment for their traffic seems quite logical. And for the ISPs to create a tiered service to meet those demands also seems reasonable - and to charge more for that seems equally reasonable.

Where Net Neutrality has it right, is the significance of the Internet does mean the FCC should require a minimum level of Internet access that is equally available to everyone - the best effort service that the Internet has always provided. But the FCC should not prevent those who want premium services for paying for that right, so that those of us who don't want it, don't have to. That means ISPs should be able to charge more for premium services, but only while providing the best effort service we enjoy today - and have always enjoyed, irrespective of FCC rulings.

Tiered pricing by feature and use is the norm for services, and should be fo
AIE Company 12/19/2017 6:52:32 PM

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