Net Neutrality Crucial Issue for VoIP

by Mark Evans on July 10, 2009

In Ottawa this week, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission is holding hearings on the controversial issue of Net Neutrality.

The crucial issue is whether the Internet should be a level playing field for all service and content providers, or whether ISPs should have the ability to shape/manage traffic to make sure their networks can operate as efficiently as possible, and that their customers are getting the services they need.

Of course, the issue is not that cut and dry, which is why Net Neutrality is such a contentious issue. One of the key considerations is whether ISPs can give a higher priority to their own traffic and those of their partners over traffic from companies riding on the same “highway”.

For companies providing VoIP services competing against ISPs such as Shaw, Cogeco, Telus, Rogers and Bell, the Net Neutrality hearings should be watched closely. If ISPs decided to shape or throttle traffic, it could have a serious impact on a VoIP service provider’s business if consumers see a difference in quality of service.

In the past, for example, Vonage filed a complaint with the CRTC over a $10 fee that Shaw was charging to ensure that Vonage customers received high-quality service for it and other content and services.

John Lawford, counsel with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, told the CRTC that the logical solution is simply charging subscribers based on how much bandwidth they use, regardless of the application.

That makes a lot of sense, and reflects the pay-as-you-go approach popular in Europe with ISPs such as BT.

For more on the hearings, which continue until July 13, check out Mark Goldberg’s Telecom Trends blogCBC.ca and the National Post, which look at the impact that throttling could have on the film industry.

Guest Contributor: Mark Evans, (ME Consulting)

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