The breakdown of Net Neutrality could stifle innovation in America by raising the price of entry for Internet-based businesses. But, because so many businesses have adopted SIP trunking, and VoIP in general, the way you talk to your customers is facing the same threat. And you have until September 15 to do something about it.
The major ISPs driving for the right to charge tiered rates for connection speed, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, etc., are also telephone service providers. Though they all offer VoIP, more traditional service constitutes their bread and butter. If they have the legal right to decide what traffic goes over their Internet access portals at which speeds, they could easily tariff IP voice traffic to inflate prices, or damage the call quality of those who don’t pony up.
What neutrality means for your voice
Voice communications are meant to be real-time communications, so they need to travel fast. Any degradation of speed can significantly impact quality. And, as industry analyst Phil Edholm pointed out (thanks Gigaom) “It would be easy for ISPs to push VoIP providers to a lower level of service.” That means, your providers would have to pay a higher rate to route your calls over enough bandwidth to sound human, which means you pay a higher rate for your enterprise VoIP or SIP trunking service. As nojitter reported back in January, Verizon lawyer Helgi Walker said, “I’m authorized to state from my client today that but for these rules (the ones keeping the Internet open) we would be exploring those types of arrangements (the ones that charge more for faster pipes).”
It sounds like shady business, but let’s be honest, it’s actually smart business if you look at it objectively. The big giant ISPs own access that people and businesses value. Why not charge as much as they can for that access? It would be insane for us to expect them to not behave like oligopolists, when they have an oligopoly. As smart business people, you or I would do the same.
Except that we, as citizens of the world wide web, believe innovation should not be clamped in a strangle hold, and that competition should be fair. If someone comes up with an amazing new video service, we don’t want them to fail because their ISPs protect their own video on demand offerings. Allowing ISPs to demand higher rates will stifle competition by making it difficult for startups to compete with the conglomerates. And this isn’t only limited to competing with the ISPs. ISPs will be motivated to favor large companies better prepared to absorb additional connection fees, creating barriers to entry in nearly every single business that leverages the Internet. The benefits of new enterprises being able to connect to this critical public resource fuels the progression of the human race, from medicine to education to innovation in consumer and business services. To us, that seems far more important than greater profits for Comcast and AT&T.
A ray of hope
There is good news, though. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court took away it’s ability to enforce open Internet rules, the FCC still believes Internet access should be unobstructed and is looking for ways to ensure that it is. The FCC’s policy is based on the belief that an open Internet promotes competition and enables investment and innovation. In May, the Commission “launched a rulemaking seeking public comment on how best to protect and promote an open Internet.” FCC commissioner, Tom Wheeler, has pledged to look at “overruling state laws that restrict the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband service to residents.” Which is one idea to get around the Internet access monopoly held tight by the mega ISPs.
Join the fight
All that means there’s hope to keep the Internet open, and, near and dear to our hearts, your SIP trunking service reliable, clear, and just as cost effective as ever. If you have ideas on how the FCC can regulate an open and fair Internet for all, tell them all about it. But do it before September 15, 2014, when the request for comment closes. Hurry!