Net Neutrality – Where We Stand

You can’t watch TV or read the papers this holiday season without coming across the issue of Net Neutrality. It’s been fascinating to watch how various groups have gone about debating this topic, spurred by the FCC looking into possible regulations. As the premier provider of VoIP applications to service providers, we’d like to weigh in on this topic. What the FCC decides has the potential to greatly benefit, or to greatly disrupt, the telecommunications industry moving forward.

Before we dive into Net Neutrality, maybe a good place to start is with what BroadSoft would like for the Internet as a whole. Here’s what we’d like to see promoted and protected:

  • Accessibility – the Internet should be available to all Americans, and preferably via fast, broadband access wherever feasible. We applaud the FCC’s work in this area and it’s great to have in Chairman Genachowski someone who really "gets" how vital this access is for the productivity of individuals and the country.
  • Openness – the Internet should be accessible via open standards and should not discriminate based on device or protocol.
  • Privacy – consumers need protections so that they control how, when and by whom their personal information is viewed and/or used.
  • Security – consumers deserve to have the safest, more secure networks and online experiences possible.

On Thursday, October 22nd the FCC approved a notice of proposed rule making that will look into what regulations are necessary to assure what they call the "Open Internet." The principles are:

  • Allow sending and receiving all lawful content.
  • Allow all lawful applications and services.
  • Allow all lawful devices that don’t harm the network.
  • Allow access to all network, application, service and content providers.
  • Ensure there is no discrimination against particular lawful content, applications, services and devices.
  • Reveal practices necessary to allow for network management that might limit the other five principles.

What the FCC has laid out in principle is totally in line with how we look at the issue. The only thing that concerns us at BroadSoft is the focus on how service providers manage their networks. Restrictive regulations here could negatively impact progress and prevent consumers from enjoying the productivity and collaborative benefits of broadband access.

Why? Because of explosive Internet traffic growth. The telecom infrastructure provider Tellabs did a study in 2008 of industry professionals on this issue. Over half thought there was the chance the Internet could actually "break" without major investments! Other notable findings:

  • Video is 30% of Internet traffic today, and will be 75% in five years
  • 80% of respondents felt that operators need freedom in managing their networks to address congestion
  • 81% see mobile video as an even heavier burden for networks

So why hasn’t the Internet collapsed (yet anyway!) under the weight of such growth? The biggest reason is because service providers have invested billions of dollars in their networks, and they are now well positioned to see a return on that investment. The Internet backbone today is at a critical juncture, migrating from infrastructure designed to support the transmission of analog phone calls via circuit-switching to all IP architecture.

As the survey figures show, internet traffic growth is because of the new IP, real-time communication options we as users are all choosing. Video usage in particular is soaring, and the explosion of mobile internet usage is just beginning.

It’s critical we get the regulations right as our national communications infrastructure undergoes a massive migration from circuit-switched to fully IP.

The FCC has an important role to play as the Internet migrates to a fully IP infrastructure in this country. We think it’s exciting to have a chairman and an agency that clearly give these issues the priority they deserve. We simply suggest the commission remember that a powerful reason behind the Internet’s growth and innovation and productivity has been the absence of excess regulation. The competition to provide advanced services to users is already robust, and as we expand broadband access let’s not burden the Internet with regulations from a by-gone era.

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