I woke up the other day and discovered that my home phone was not working. No dial tone, no 411 and most importantly for me with two little kids no 911 service in the unfortunate case that we would need it. Having worked with more than one phone in my career I of course began to look for the issue and quickly determined that it was a network problem rather than a wiring issue in my house. After getting to that point I placed a call into ATT support thinking that they would send someone out right away to get the issue addressed. Boy was in in for a rude awakening. Rather than having someone come out that day they told me (like it was no big deal) that they might be able to have someone out over a week or two later. They wouldn’t even give me a day to expect them because in their words they were “busy”. To say I was a bit disappointed in this type of service would be an understatement. In hindsight however this is exactly what to expect from monopoly services that solely control the ‘pipe’ into your house or business so I guess I should not have been surprised. What in the world does this have to do with net neutrality? Read on.
Knowing that I would have to wait over a week just to get someone to come out and look at my phone I began researching my options to replace ATT entirely at my house. Today there are boatloads of options out there from Vonage to Skype to 8×8 to my friends current favorite Magic Jack. All of these companies can offer bandwidth intensive services over the shared pipe coming into my house from our cable provider Brighthouse. Today, I can (and did) select one of these companies to replace my current phone service provider without having to worry about my ISP choking the service to make it unusable. By being able to select one of these services ATT has gone from a monopoly in my neighborhood, able to treat customers however they want, to just one more service provider who has to compete for their customer base. This is of course bad news for them but a fantastic opportunity for consumers.
As I mentioned above I use Brighthouse as my internet provider via their cable service and have been extremely happy with their level of customer support and their products. Essentially I pay them a fee to get a 10 MB pipe of data throughput coming into my house. Whether I use this pipe for YouTube videos or phone calls or sending documents in my email the data is treated the same. This approach to treating applications equally is called Net Neutrality which is based on the traditional concept of Common Carriage defined over 100 years ago to ensure that Common Carriers of goods, people and information such as trains, planes, buses and telephone companies cannot discriminate with regard to what is carried or where it is carried. The goal of net neutrality proponents is to make sure that the businesses providing internet access to customers must abide by the Common Carriage mandate that has been in place to give customers choice when dealing with sole service providers of the means of transport.
To anyone dealing with communications based services as either a provider or consumer, Net Neutrality is one topic you should become familiar with and help lobby your elected officials to make sure this level of service is protected. With the migration of business applications into the cloud including phone services, contact center services, email services, CRM Services, DB services etc. the ability for your internet service provider to decide which of these applications will get preferential treatment and which ones will get treated like second class citizens is far too broad for these ISPs (who by the way likely provide a competing service over the same pipe) to get to decide. It would be a real shame for the US to allow all these innovative small businesses popping up all over to die unnecessarily by again handing over complete control of the access pipe to a single provider who decides if they want another service competing with their own offering. As my story above illustrates giving a single company this type of control is not in the best interest of consumers. I urge all of you to visit http://www.savetheinternet.com/ to get educated on this important topic which Senator Franklin called “the First Ammendment issue of our time."