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Re: US slaps fine on company blocking VoIP

  • From: Bill Nash
  • Date: Sun Mar 06 19:20:02 2005

On Fri, 4 Mar 2005, Robert Blayzor wrote:

Bill Nash wrote:
At the root of it, it's deliberate anti-competitive behavior, and that's
what the fine is for. I'm generally fine to have the government stay out
of the internet as much as possible, but this move was the correct one,
as it was on behalf of the end consumer. It's not the choice of port
blocking that matters, it's the intent.
Wait a minute, since when is the Internet service I provide regulated by
ANY entity?  It's not, therefore I can run the network any way I see
Since you applied for a license to operate a business in your city/county/state.

fit.  If customers don't like it, they can choose another ISP; if they
can't choose another ISP, not my problem, I'm not a regulated entity,
you get my service or none at all.
Unregulated does not mean unencumbered by legal responsibilities. What would your take on a local competitor be, if they began filtering all traffic to your network when they happen to control all long haul egress? It's their network, they can do it, right? You don't get a say, do you? They're just leveraging their control of local peering to deliberately obstruct your ability to do business. That's legal, right?

Lets take port blocking out of this.  Lets say I'm an ISP that offers
digital phone service to my customers.  Of course I'm going to provide
my customers with the best voice service possible, which means QoS for
my voice customers.  If Vonages service is basically unsable on my
network due to oversubscription/latency/packetloss on some legs/remotes
am I obligated now to provide voice quality?  No, I'm not.  My voice
works because my customers pay me for that, is that anti-competitive?
That's intentional as well...
If VOIP doesn't run on your network because you've oversold your capacity, no amount of QoS is going to put the quality back into your service. People will find better ISPs. If you deliberately set QoS to favor your services over a competitor, whom your customers are also paying for service, you'll be staring down prosecutors, at some point. It's anti-competitive behavior, as you're taking deliberate actions to degrade the service of a competitor, simply because you can.

Your obligation to your customers is to provide the service they're paying for. If they buy voice, you give them voice. If they buy packets, you give them packets. The first time a customer pipes up and says his competitive-VOIP service functions worse than his neighbor's, who's buying from you, it's absolutely in your best interests to pay attention to it, because you don't want your first hint about it to be from a state or federal investigator.

Nobody says I have to carry Vonage traffic so long as I do not violate
any SLA's with the customers I provide service for.  Regardless if it's
not competitive, if you want to really get technical and bring in
regulation and law like the telcos do, Vonage should be paying ISP's to
transport and terminate their voice customers traffic.
Vonage DOES pay ISPs to transport their traffic. They're paying their direct peers for it, or at the barest minimum, the ISPs they purchase connectivity from, who are in turn paying, or being paid by, THEIR peers, ad infinitum, through transit agreements. Do you see my point yet?

Seems that Vonage wants to have their cake and eat it to when it comes
to regulation...
Regulation doesn't even need to enter into this. The more peers you have, the less freedom you have to dictate what can and can't happen on your network, because you have a contractual obligation to live up to those agreements. In turn, those same obligations are passed on, from peer to peer to peer, until even Kevin Bacon gets the point: you can't just selectively refuse to transit traffic because a specific port number offends you.

Note: I am not a lawyer. It's entirely possible I'm wrong. Please correct me, if so.

To supply some legal context to this discussion, consider the rise of the CLEC, and the practices engaged by the incumbent telco's to restrict or inhibit market entry. Covad's struggles with Bell South. Caltech and Pacbell. Going back farther, MCI and AT&T's local loop squabbles.

There's a lot of text in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that's relevent here, especially with regard to the provision of voice services, and the requirement of competitors to facilitate unhindered delivery of service to the consumer. (Sec 251, Interconnection)

This does open up avenues for many other debates, including treatment of any given ISPs facilities as local loop, with respect to VOIP termination, and the obligations of ISPs to provide QoS, technical or otherwise, to VOIP traffic.

- billn

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