Bryan Martin On Network Neutrality

by Bruce Stewart

Bryan Martin, the CEO and Chairman of 8x8, started off the TMC Internet Telephony conference in San Diego with a passionate plea for network neutrality. Martin's conference-opening keynote traced the relatively brief history of VoIP and concluded with a discussion of the rapidly-changing regulatory climate here in the U.S. around IP communications, and the suggestion that the time is now for the industry to get a handle on these issues and speak up to our legislators.

Martin pointed out that while it is widely predicted that a new telecom bill won't see the light of day this year, it is highly likely that within the next year or two we will see new regulations and laws that may have serious impacts on the IP communications sector. Martin particularly pleaded for adoption of some kind of network neutrality rules, which is not surprising as 8x8's main Packet8 VoIP offering could be at the mercy of Internet service providers who are increasingly looking to compete with companies like 8x8 with their own VoIP products. Martin advocated making the case for network neutrality by focusing on the impact this issue will have on end users of technology, pointing out that much of the press so far has focused on what the effects will be on service and content providers, but if we start talking about consumers (voters) more, we may have more success influencing career politicians. 8x8 has even produced a white paper (PDF) to help make this case, and I think they did a good job with it.

The crowd here seemed sympathetic to Martin's perspective, and I get the impression that there aren't many in the audience who oppose at least the principle of a non-discriminatory network policy. Again, not surprising though at a conference with "Internet Telephony" in its name.