Net neutrality has been a hot topic all year. The window for public comment on how federal rule-makers should treat Internet traffic closed on September 12, 2014. The FCC received a records 3.7 million comments.
While the public comments overwhelmingly favor net neutrality, many Internet service providers would prefer the FCC to implement an Internet “fast lane.” Most of the public comment has been fixated on streaming video sites like Netflix, or other high bandwidth services like internet radio. But, VoIP (Voice over IP) has a stake in net neutrality as well. The public will be denied the benefits of high definition voice services if VoIP calls are stuck in the “slow lane”. Over the Top VoIP companies that use the public Internet for their network transport have the most to lose.
Industry analyst, Phil Edholm points out that it would be easy for ISPs to push VoIP providers to a lower level of service unless those providers pay extra to be bumped up to a better service level. Because VoIP requires high data speed to deliver effective sound quality, ending net neutrality could negatively impact VoIP providers and customers.
However, Hal Singer, writing for Forbes, has suggested that preventing Internet “fast lanes” could harm investment from telecommunication companies. He points to past regulation that mirrors what the U.S. is handling in the present.
First, he notes the 1996 Telecom Act that required Regional Bell Operating Companies to “unbundle” local exchange networks to make room for telecom entrants. Rates for purchasing those exchanges were regulated, and one may have thought that telecom entrants into the market would have invested more heavily in areas with more regulation—lower rates. However, Singer points to research which reveals the opposite effect: telecom entrants invested more in states with higher rates.