The end of net neutrality - where internet access is provided across the board without restricting or promoting websites, services, or protocols - is bound to bring some sweeping changes to how the internet is accessed and used. IT departments in particular will have to figure out how to navigate the changes and continue to service their customers and end-users amidst a new environment.
Whether your business is small or large, your users and executives are likely to seek you out to ask questions about topics related to the new frontier businesses will find themselves upon.
Here are 10 typical questions that users might ask IT leaders, along with recommended answers. You should plan to research the specific details as they will apply to your organization and modify the responses accordingly depending on your needs and objectives.
1. How will day-to-day operations be affected?
There is no expected change to day-to-day operations from the outset; we will still utilize the same external sites and services we currently access. We will be assessing costs to run the business and possibly leveraging different ISPs or options with our current provider depending on the array of features and pricing which they offer. Should we need to switch vendors or providers such as for cloud computing or storage options we will assess accordingly and plan the change.
It's important to keep in mind that only external sites and services may be affected by the end of net neutrality.; there will be no impact to internal sites or systems as those operate within our private network.
2. Will VPN access or remote work be affected?
Users will still be able to connect to the business network remotely in order to perform their jobs. Should there be increased costs by our company's ISP to support incoming remote access, we will be prepared to meet these costs or investigate alternative options.
SEE: Net neutrality: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
3. How will this change our ISP investments?
The IT department will engage our ISP to assess what changes to our service or billing plan will be made and work with finance and the appropriate decision makers in order to determine the best course of action. Our goal is to prioritize the use of commercial traffic (traffic to/from other businesses, customers and remote employees) in order to support and maintain business initiatives. It is possible that existing customers may receive certain grandfathered privileges so we will make sure to factor any such considerations into our decision process.
4. How will our SLAs with providers/customers change?
Existing SLAs will remain intact, though those offered by our internet provider may entail higher costs paid to them. Service level agreements involving customers or users we support or provide services to will not involve increased resolution timeframes nor any costs or fees passed along to them.
5. What will the IT department be doing differently?
In the wake of net neutrality, there is likely going to be a need to evaluate network traffic and determine how it has been impacted either by pricing (for instance paying more for a guaranteed bandwidth rate or for access to certain business sites) or by throttling/blocking on the part of the ISP (for instance limiting bandwidth or restricting access to sites deemed non-essential or inappropriate).
The IT department will engage in more high-level monitoring and logging of inbound/ outbound network traffic and ISP activity. The purpose of this increased scrutiny is to provide a comprehensive analysis of how our internet-related operations are conducted to adjust ISP plans or providers accordingly. This may also entail switching or bringing some external resources in-house if necessary to reduce costs or improve performance.
6. What will be the difference between accessing the internet from home versus at work?
As previously stated, there will be no change in current service offerings for remote VPN access, nor access to business-related sites and services from within the company network. Employees should contact their personal internet providers or mobile carriers to investigate proposed changes to service plans and offerings. Mobile carriers in particular are likely to initiate changes in the wake of ending net neutrality, as many service plans involve a fixed amount of data to be used each month.
7. What sites will I still be able to access at work?
At the moment this remains to be determined, but to reiterate, all business-related activity will continue without restriction or change. Access to personal or recreational websites such as social media, entertainment, or other non-business related functions may be restricted or impeded depending upon our internet provider's policies and usage fees.
Please keep in mind, internet access and connectivity should be utilized to support the business, our customers and employees first and foremost in order to maximize operational efficiency and reduce costs where applicable.
8. Will I receive any new reimbursements if my home internet provider raises my fees and I use their service for work?
If your internet provider charges you fees for services/functions related to the scope of your business duties (VPN connectivity to the business for instance), the organization will reimburse you accordingly. We may also consider providing you with a Wi-Fi hotspot owned and paid for by the organization to be used specifically for remote access to the business.
SEE: Remote access policy (Tech Pro Research)
9. Will I receive an increase in my current reimbursement plan?
If we are currently reimbursing you or providing a stipend for your internet access from home so that you can perform work-related duties, we will increase the amount paid to you accordingly should your rates rise. The condition is that the fee increase levied by your provider must involve a service or function related to your job duties; a fee increase to access entertainment or recreational websites will not be matched accordingly.
10. Will I have to reimburse the company for any charges I incur for non-work related internet access?
Yes, whether incurred from the organization's premises, over the VPN or while utilizing company-owned Wi-Fi hotspots, any expenses related to non-work internet access must be reimbursed to the company, unless otherwise authorized and approved by the IT department and employee managers, depending on company policies.
- 8 ways the end of net neutrality may affect IT departments (TechRepublic)
- In wake of net neutrality fight, UK deems high-speed internet a right (TechRepublic)
- Net Neutrality has been rolled back: What happens next? (TechRepublic)
- Net neutrality showdown: Now Mozilla and 21 states sue FCC over internet freedom (ZDNet)
- Net neutrality: The eve of destruction (ZDNet)
- FCC issues final order dismantling net neutrality (CNET)
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.