Net Neutrality and VoIP: What You Need to Know

The most recent net neutrality ruling, which was released in February 2015, has significant implications for VoIP service providers as well as their customers.  We’ll review the highlights of the Federal Communication Commission’s final decision, and help you understand how it will affect your VoIP service.

If you’ve been following the net neutrality debate, you probably know that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an enormous document that outlined its ruling back in February 2015.  But if you haven’t had the chance to peruse the FCC’s 400 page document, you might not be sure about how net neutrality affects your VoIP services.

Net Neutrality and VoIP Service: A Quick History Lesson

Before we dive into the most recent FCC ruling on net neutrality and VoIP, let’s rewind to May 2014.  At that time, Chairman Tom Wheeler shared a plan that would have allowed big Internet service providers, like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, to create “pay-to-play” fast lanes for prioritized data transfer.

In plain English, Wheeler’s proposal would have allowed these companies, which provide both phone and Internet services, to charge premium rates for faster voice and data streaming.  If the VoIP provider that you used did not pay these fees, your phone service would suffer.

This plan was met with great opposition, which came from both Internet users and VoIP providers alike.  As a result, Wheeler’s initial proposal was put aside. In February 2015, he released a new proposal that removed these threats to a free and open Internet.

How does the latest FCC ruling affect VoIP service?

The FCC ruling released in February 2015 re-classified Internet service providers (ISP), such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, as “Title II telecommunications services.”  This new designation means that they cannot:

  • Block lawful content, applications, services, or devices
  • Discriminate against competing services or providers with fees for “fast lanes” or prioritization

This updated ruling ensures that businesses can choose the best VoIP service for their needs – even if it is not from their Internet service provider.  Big ISPs are not allowed to “throttle” the speed of delivery of VoIP traffic that is routed through competing providers.

What about VoIP services like Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp?

Most recently, India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has suggested that OTT VoIP services like Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp should be subject to the same regulations as telecom companies.

While these recommended regulations would not affect international calls, the committee suggested that these OTT services hurt the domestic telecom market.  As such, the DoT is considering a proposal that could result in consumers paying to make local and national calls using Skype, Viber, and other similar services.

Net Neutrality and VoIP

While strides have been made to protect consumers and competing VoIP providers, it’s clear that the net neutrality debate is far from over.  All over the world, regulators are struggling to balance consideration for consumer interests as well as the telecommunications market.

For more information on the debate, follow and explore the resources below.