How to implement QoS has always been a debatable issue for enterprise network engineers, especially those trying to take their TDM voice traffic and push it over a data network to save money. The goal in these cases is to make a change without end users ever knowing the difference. In such cases, the end user still uses the desk phone in the same way and ideally never hears any degraded voice quality as a result of poor QoS. As a result, the average end user has never been involved in the QoS debate.
As more and more corporate users telecommute over broadband Internet connections and rely on multifaceted Unified Communications tools, they will become more aware of QoS because the quality issues will be on their side of the interconnection (i.e., the broadband cable or DSL connection to their homes). The network engineers in their enterprise will be unable to help much, because while an enterprise has some control over how QoS is implemented within its private WAN, like a corporate MPLS network, it has virtually no control over how QoS is implemented on the broadband Internet connections their users might be connected to.
When everyday end users feel the pain of poor broadband QoS, could this awareness change the net neutrality debate? It seems that net neutrality has been mostly defined on the consumer side by a small number of heavy broadband users; those who make use of tools like BitTorrent to exchange and share files. This population typically argues that every bit on a broadband connection should be treated equally.
But will the silent majority (those who don’t use BitTorrent but who will increasingly start to expect quality UC experiences on their home broadband connection) eventually start to chime in on the other side of the net neutrality debate?
While Net Neutrality 1.0 rulemaking will likely be influenced by the small, vocal group of heavy broadband users, I think Net Neutrality 2.0 (some future revision to rules that will take place a decade from now) will swing the pendulum the other direction as the large majority of users become increasingly frustrated by poor QoS and start to insist on low-latency connectivity. The average home broadband user will increasingly rely on UC feature/functionality, not only in their work life as part of a corporate enterprise but in their home life too on social networking sites.
You can’t do voice, videoconferencing and data over a single connection without QoS, but I can’t really envision how one implements QoS the way the net neutrality debate is currently framed. So until the silent majority starts to feel the pain of poor QoS, their refrain isn’t likely to overtake the cacophony of high-bandwidth users who are framing the debate today. It may take a generation for this change in thought to occur, but I think it may be a given.