14 Dec 2017

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.


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