There are not many debates out there that have captivated the entire tech community like the debate over the proposed FCC rules regarding net neutrality. It is definitely a sensitive issue right now with plenty of arguments covering all sides of the debate. The FCC public comments system even crashed under heavy load recently due to traffic related to the proposed rule changes, although John Oliver’s humorous yet strongly opinionated commentary  on net neutrality on his HBO show ‘Last Week Tonight’ had a lot to do with that (which only serves to reinforce that this is a hot topic for many).

If you are unclear on exactly what is proposed, that is fair as the potential rule changes are somewhat esoteric. GigaOM provided a good summary of what exactly the FCC proposed and voted on, and I’ve provided a brief summary paragraph from that article below:

The FCC is proposing that it should use the authority that it has under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act to regulate net neutrality, which unfortunately leaves the rules open to the possibility of paid prioritization. While Chairman Wheeler said that these rules don’t allow paid prioritization and is vehemently against allowing any bifurcation of the internet, it’s also something that the agency can’t enforce if the ISPs offer a creative legal challenge to its no-blocking rules or the wording of the eventual net neutrality rules. GigaOM

The concept of ‘paid prioritization’ has many people concerned this will lead to the creation of an ‘Internet Fast Lane’. The fear is that this fast lane will benefit larger companies with plenty of resources to invest in ensuring their content always reaches consumers with the best possible experience, and that those who don’t have similar resources could see their content relegated to a less than desired consumer experience. So the debate is, would this be a death knell to innovation, preventing smaller cash-starved startups from reaching critical mass? Or is it a reasonable operational tool for large service providers to negotiate with content providers that are putting tremendous pressure on their networks? Those are just two points being brought up in the debate.

The question I want to ask- if there was an Internet fast lane, what would be the impact on Citrix customers? That impact could be vast, and one potential customer impact is the impact to the mobile workers. Trends such as work from home and BYOD have provided tremendous flexibility to employees to balance their professional and private lives, but at the same time those trends have enabled those employees to be tremendous consumers of content and internet bandwidth, potentially putting them in the crosshairs of the proposed FCC rule changes.

While the Enterprise may be able to negotiate great broadband service to their offices, mobile workers in their home offices may well be at the whims of their service provider. What if that service provider gives preferential treatment to customers consuming services such as Netflix (because of a ‘fast lane’ arrangement) at the expense of customers consuming potentially bandwidth intense Enterprise collaboration tools (such as web conferencing, VoIP or remote desktop solutions to name a few).  Or conversely, could the proposed regulations allow service providers to better manage and regulate traffic on their networks, providing a better experience for all?

This of course is just speculation at this point since we are talking about proposed rule changes that are open to different interpretations, but it is worth serious discussion and review as it will impact all of us.

So what do you think? Will this potentially inhibit the ability for mobile employees to work effectively while not in the office or will it be a non-issue?I know this will be a topic that the Citrix Labs team will be closely following as well as seeing what our customers have to say. Given the debates I’ve seen so far, I’m sure our customers will have plenty of opinions that cover all sides of the argument. Regardless of what happens, Citrix as a provider of Mobile Workspaces remains committed to providing the best user experience for people accessing apps, data and desktops.

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