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Prepare for the future without net neutrality

Jun 19, 20185 mins
InternetNetwork MonitoringNetworking

With the end of net neutrality, it is important for organizations to prepare for any potential changes in their internet service.

net neutrality
Credit: Thinkstock

Net neutrality officially ended on June 11, 2018, and many people are concerned that this is the end of an open internet. Many supporters of it believe the internet should be regulated no different than the phone system or power utility and that this change will decrease the performance of it. Opponents of net neutrality, argue that the end of it will now increase competition among the various internet service providers (ISPs) and increase coverage, improve performance, and lower costs.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality became effective by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) under President Barack Obama in 2015. It is a set of rules that ensured ISPs treated all data transmissions, irrespective to content, that flowed through their infrastructure equally. Net neutrality protections prevented ISPs from slowing web services, blocking access to sites, or charging content organizations for faster delivery of streaming movies or videos. It is believed that antitrust laws did not go far enough in ensuring that all content received equal treatment.

What will happen without net neutrality?

With net neutrality ending, an ISP can now slow down its competitors’ applications across its network or block specific sites that have opinions it disagrees with. Also, they can charge extra fees to only content companies that can afford to pay for preferential treatment and force other companies to a slower tier of service.

ISPs can benefit because this can drive up the price of specific services with less investment.

For example, in 2014, Netflix agreed to pay Comcast and Verizon to ensure that their videos would play with a reserved amount of bandwidth across their networks. This deal was signed because Netflix customers were complaining about their slow internet speed when steaming movies. After the payment, Netflix customers experienced much better performance.

What enterprises can do now that net neutrality has ended

Monitor your network

With the end of net neutrality, it is important for you (network professionals) to closely monitor your internet latency and hop path count to ensure that no ISP configuration changes are going on behind the scenes that can affect your network performance. If you notice any significant changes, you should contact your provider and find out why it occurred.

It is essential for you to take ownership of this so that employees and customers’ level of service is maintained appropriately, despite changes that an ISP could make to other environments to increase or reduce the level of services.

Over the years, I have learned a lot about the details of changes that my ISPs have made — by just closely monitoring latency and hop path count to key destinations. This has helped me predict potential issues before my ISP discovered them. It is more important to do this now with net neutrality ending because there is the possibility of a significant amount of routing and quality of services tagging changes throughout the internet, and you want to ensure that you are not negatively affected by changes that could be targeted for other customers or services that you don’t utilize.

Plan for potential internet service changes

It is critical that you are prepared for any changes to the services that your ISP offers. Reach out and communicate with your ISPs to find out what their official plans are. For now, companies such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have said they do not plan to block or throttle web access or charge increased prices for delivery of online content, but, of course, that can change at any time due to the potential benefits of making changes.

Changes that you may make include preparing to switch over to a new ISP in case your present provider increases the price for certain services that are in use or changing the services that you utilize in your environment because of additional charges. You may to have to prepare to increase your budget to pay for any increases in ISP charges.

Also, if you offer certain online services to your customers, you will want to do research on their ISPs to find out if any changes are on the horizon that can affect their performance. It is better to plan for these changes before the ISP abruptly makes them.

If you’re current ISP is not able to provide you with details of the changes they plan to make, reach out to other to other ISPs to learn what changes are on the horizon for them. This will help you get an idea of the direction changes within the industry are moving to. Then create what-if and next-step scenarios if you’re ISP were to make various changes.

For example, ask what if your ISP were to charge additional costs to obtain better streaming performance? What if they block specific content that is required for your organization to be competitive? Does your company provide content that competes with your current ISP’s content? What are your alternative providers?

After you create this list of various questions, provide answers and next steps to address them. When performing this analysis, it is important that business unit leaders are involved because they would know in depth how these ISP changes can affect customers and the bottom line.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said net neutrality will contribute to “the long-term interest in building better, faster, cheaper internet access.” I hope that is true. Time will lead us to know if it is, but it is still essential to do your due diligence and prepare for worst-case scenarios that can potentially affect your customers’ performance and organizations bottom line.


Mark Dargin is an experienced network and security architect/leader. He has over 18 years of experience designing, managing, and securing complex WAN and LAN infrastructures for large and medium-sized organizations.

Mark’s experience includes leading and managing large scale compliance and risk management initiatives and programs. He is a member of the Michigan Cybersecurity Civilian Corps., a rapid response team of experienced IT security volunteers who will assist the state and industries during major cybersecurity incidents. He is also a graduate of the FBI citizen’s academy in Detroit and a member of InfraGard.

  Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and Communications from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a master’s degree in Business Information Technology from Walsh College in Troy, Michigan. He recently completed the Advanced Computer Security Certificate program at Stanford University. Mark holds various active certifications, including the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional), PMP (Project Management Professional), GIAC GMON (Continuous Monitoring & Security Operations), CCSA (Checkpoint Certified Security Administrator) and ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library).