The term net neutrality, which pops up in Internet debate every few years, is the belief that all data on the Internet should be treated the same way by the Internet service providers (ISPs) and governments that regulate most of the Internet. The term suggests that there should be no discrimination and prices should not depend on user, content, website, platform, or application.
There is always an uproar about the subject every time the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) submits a new rule on the topic, but then the matter quickly fades away. This ongoing cycle has resulted in tired businesses and consumers that have become insensitive towards the issue.
However, they must not forget that most businesses now rely on the Internet for various workflows, and therefore any changes in the rules of net neutrality can significantly affect the VoIP industry and way companies function, particularly VoIP providers, since they offer enterprise phone services to their clients over data networks.
How Does Net Neutrality Affect Businesses and VoIP Providers?
The current FCC’s net neutrality stance was implemented in 2015 and assures that no data on the Internet can be throttled, no content can be censored, and no favoritism of one group over the other is allowed.
It prevents ISPs from charging higher or lower rates for accessing certain websites. It also forbids content providers from paying extra to the ISP to have their images and videos delivered at higher speeds than their competitors.
However, the new FCC chairman, Ajit Varadaraj Pai, has proposed new rules that abolish the above order.
The new rules would remove the barriers and allow ISPs to differentiate and charge differently for various types of content, drastically affecting the VoIP industry since VoIP data is also a type of content.
Businesses rely on high-speed Internet to get phone services from hosted VoIP vendors. In the absence of net neutrality, ISPs will be able to charge either VoIP vendors or businesses higher fees for accessing VoIP services. If they don’t agree to pay these extra fees, they can slow down VoIP data only over their networks, negatively affecting phone services in general and voice quality on calls.
As mentioned above, Internet providers would even be able to charge the VoIP providers themselves. If an ISP decides to charge a certain fee for accepting VoIP data through their network, it could force existing vendors out of business and block new VoIP providers from entering the industry if they cannot afford the extra payments.
The main and overall concern is that the abolishment of the existing rules will force small businesses to consolidate with bigger players, providing benefits to the large companies and reducing the competition in the field. This could certainly and severely harm the continued growth and innovation of the VoIP industry.