Net Neutrality: What It Is and Why the AV Industry Needs to Act Now

by in Features, Industry, Miscellaneous, Tech Notes, Technology, Trends

by Josh Srago, CTS

So much of what we do in modern life is technology driven and the internet is at the heart of that. Right now the FCC has proposed rules regarding Net Neutrality that could alter how effective video conferencing, unified communications and collaboration technologies will be moving forward.

This is the age of smartphones and tablets where we are almost never without an internet connection immediately at our fingertips for research and communication. The issue raised most frequently is how this could affect people’s ability to access Netflix or YouTube in their homes because those companies will be forced to pay additional costs to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner to ensure that the movies and videos reach customers’ homes uninterrupted.  This issue, though, stretches far beyond that.


Video conferencing has become so engrained in our modern way of life through free services like Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts. We’ve come to accept the fact that because these are free services, the quality of the video might be choppy, grainy, freeze from time to time, or drop completely. But how will you feel about a system that you spent $25,000 to have installed functioning in the same way? That is what we could be heading towards if the proposed “fast lane” is allowed to take shape.

The addition of a fast lane does not mean that the ISPs will be installing new connections to your building for those that choose to pay for prioritized access. It means that ISPs are going to give that data priority while those that aren’t paying will end up with less available bandwidth. Think of the HOV/Carpool lane on freeways during rush hour traffic. Most people crawl along while one lane remains wide open for special cars.  As priority data increases, the amount of bandwidth available for non-priority data decreases. This means your company’s digital communications could be interrupted if someone in your area paying for priority service has a sudden increase in traffic.

With this impact on people’s ability to communicate and interact across a network, the result will be fewer businesses using and purchasing audio visual equipment and systems that allow for unified communication and collaboration between businesses. This could result in less money being invested in audio visual systems and lost jobs due to a decrease in revenue for the audio visual technology industry. Not only would the half a million AV professionals be impacted, but so would your business’s capability to communicate and collaborate reliably with those not in your office.

These rules are up for public comment at through Friday, July 18 at midnight EST.* After that, comments that have been submitted can be responded to through 9/10/14. You can also reach out directly to your congressional representative or state senator and let them know you want them to protect and promote an open internet.

If you’d like more information on how Net Neutrality will impact business communications and the AV industry you can find additional pieces I have written on my website.

*Updated at 7/15/14 at 1:24 p.m. CDT