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Vonage Says VoIP Traffic Blocked By Providers 410

Posted by timothy
from the shut-up-you dept.
Anonymouse writes "Advanced IP Pipeline reports that Vonage has filed numerous complaints with the FCC over their VoIP traffic being blocked by major providers, something providers have long worried about but had not yet been seen 'in the wild.' Analysts expect the issue of network neutrality (or network discrimination) is only going to get larger as the bell and cable companies expand their VoIP efforts and bump heads with smaller providers."
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Vonage Says VoIP Traffic Blocked By Providers

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  • by nerd256 (794968) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:03PM (#11673836) Homepage
    Looks like FCC is blocking more than just VoIP :-)
    • Slashdot's staff really has to add some kind of explanation to that notice. All the FPs have actually declined in quality, harping on that one note.
    • by FirstOne (193462) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @07:01AM (#11676000) Homepage

      It's been a while since I last tested Vonage's service. When we tested it, Vonage configured the Cisco ATA-186 to use non-compressed 64Kbit/sec data streams as the default. (IP/UDP encapsulation increases net bandwidth requirements to ~80Kb/sec in each direction). Get enough of those puppies running and you'll suck down a fair percentage of any smaller ISP's backbone. Note: This type of VOIP encoding technique requires more data bandwidth than carrying the same phone call over a POTS network!!!

      At the time, you had to jump threw hoops to get Vonage to turn ON compression and reduce the network loading by a factor of 10 to 20x, (down to 4 to 8Kb/sec). But at the time, activating compression was a double edged sword, as quite a few of Vonage's termination switches&gateways no longer worked properly with the compression protocol activated.

      Since then, they have improved things a bit. They've added a user configured "Bandwidth" saver to the account management web page, and "Probably?" fixed many of compression issues with the termination switches&gateways.

      But from what I hear, the nasty (2 * 80Kb/sec) is still the default, and it inflicts a "Tragedy of the Commons" type problem on smaller ISP's. Where no single user causes a problem, but when dozens/hundreds of simultaneous users start placing calls using their Vonage service, an ISP with limited resources is forced to act. This problem can only be corrected at the source, (Vonage), since most users are blissfully ignorant of the implications. (I.E. A couple of intelligent users reseting their compression settings will have little net effect on the overall traffic patterns. )


      In summary, Vonage is complaining about smaller phone companies not providing enough IP bandwidth to carry a significant portion of their PAID/Measured traffic over Uncompensated long distance backbone connections. Ha, fat chance! For the most part, I would say that Vonage's problems are self inflicted, story over.

      • by windex (92715) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @08:18AM (#11676205) Homepage
        If a broadband ISP can't handle all their users utilizing 160Kbit/sec of bandwith they are far too oversold to be of any value to any consumer.

        I work for such a provider, and we're also a Old School Long Distance(tm) company. If we were to block or limit wanted traffic (VoIP service), we would be breaking the statutes that allow us to remain common carriers of IP traffic.

        Even to deal with virus outbreaks, we don't stop the packets (that would be filtering, which is bad), we just redirect them to a device I have built that can identify the customer from radius logs and network maps, then spits out a report for us to contact them.

        Common carrier is important, and there is court prescidence to justify the fact that 'rate limiting' is the same as 'filtering' in the eyes of common carrier status. Let someone take it to court against the provider, then there will be hell to pay. Would you want to be "responsible" for the data passing over your internet connection?

        Thought not.
      • by fupeg (653970) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:52AM (#11677698)
        The only problem with your argument is that these ISPs have binding contracts with their customers to provide a certain amount of bandwidth. So if their customers use Vonage, then Vonage traffic should be able to absorb every bit of that bandwidth, all the time. It's hard to imagine that the amount of bandwidth they've promised customers is less than the 160 Kb/sec you claim that Vonage consumes. So if they can't handle all their customers simultaneously using 160 Kb/sec then they are guilty of fraud because they have sold something (bandwidth) that they are unable to provide.
      • You are wrong, there is no tragedy of the commons here. Subscribers ARE *paying* for their bandwidth. They pay their ISP who of course pays their upstream providers. Nobody is uncompensated.

        You are also wrong that Vonage is complaining about smaller phone companies not providing enough IP bandwidth; what they are complaining about is ISP's *specifically targeting* and blocking VOIP traffic. Failing to deliver adequate capacity is another matter. There are no real quality of service guarantees in res

  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:08PM (#11673858) Homepage
    What the f&ck?! Phone companies are COMMON CARRIERS. They have to carry ALL calls!
    • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:10PM (#11673890) Homepage
      What the f&ck?! Phone companies are COMMON CARRIERS

      That applies to telephone calls over POTS. It does not apply to IP traffic over their internet service.

      • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:23PM (#11673977) Homepage
        Well, according to the article the blocking is being done by the LECs, which are merely telephone companies that provide local service.
      • by jlaxson (580785) <jlaxson@nOsPam.mac.com> on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:31PM (#11674038) Journal
        Not only does it apply to POTS, it applies to any situation where someone/thing is carrying goods or information for hire. The Post Office, couriers, and ISPs are all examples of common carriers. In a regulatory view, Common Carrier status protects a carrier from legal liability for what it transports, however, such a carrier can't then cherry-pick what it wants to carry. See Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].

        Now, IMHO, this is why the big carriers can't or won't filter competing VoIP traffic. No doubt they'd love to, but then they wouldn't be able to use Common Carrier status as a legal protection against what goes on through their network. No doubt the RIAA would love to be able to force Comcast or AT&T to filter music sharing.
        • by isdnip (49656) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:31AM (#11674940)
          ISPs are most explicitly NOT common carriers!

          Under US law, as interpreted by the FCC, ISPs are engaged in "information service". This is a service rendered atop underlying "telecommunications", which, if provided as a "service" (for a fee), would be common carriage. But what that means is that ISPs usually buy their bandwidth from common carriers. (They can also self-provision, as via wireless, or when a cable companies provides it over its own wire. Then there's telecommunications without common carriage.)

          ISPs, as information services, are expected to do more than pass along raw information. Indeed one of the legal justifications for their being treated a "information" rather than "carriers" is because they do have the right to pay attention and sometimes do. Spam filtering, address-range blocking, virus filtering, pr0n filtering, etc., are all "information processing".

          Now along comes VoIP. It flaunts its non-common carrier status. Vonage got an FCC ruling (now being appealed by state regulators) that it is not a telephone company subject to common carrier rules (and taxes). The logic basically goes like this:

          - Telephony is common carriage
          - IP is usually used to carry information
          - Information is carried above common carriage
          - VoIP is carried inside IP packets
          - Therefore VoIP is information, not telephony.

          If you look carefully, you can see why the states are upset. As an analogy, assume that postmen wore gray suits and policemen wore green suits. If a postman put on green trousers, could he give you a traffic ticket? (There's a minor technical flaw in their reasoning, because Vonage-type companies actually interconnect with the telephone network via regulated, taxed telephone companies. But they don't always play by the same rules.)

          Still, the point is that ISPs are not common carriers. Vonage and other parasitic VoIP service providers (that's a technically-correct description, not an insult, because they take advantage of ISP and telecom services already paid for by their customer) don't pay like telephone companies, and have to adapt to the underlying transport (ISPs), to whom they pay nothing. So if the ISP wants to block them, it's perfectly legal. Your recourse is to change ISPs. Telephone companies pay for their wire. It shows up in the price.

          Now here's the catch -- what choice of ISPs do you have? Cable companies don't usually offer choice, or else usually only offer two (themselves and maybe one little-advertised option). Telco DSL is technically a common carrier telecommunications service that has to offer service to any ISP that asks; Verizon Online is supposed to be just another ISP to the Verizon Telephone Companies. That's why Speakeasy can run over Verizon wire. However, Verizon and BellSouth have petitioned the FCC to drop all of those rules. They want to not be common carriers, and want instead to use their wire to carry their own ISP, period, no choice. See the FCC's web site, e-filing, ECFS, Docket # 04-405 and 04-440. As "self-provisioned ISPs" (like cable companies), they would be allowed to block Vonage freely, and deny you access to competing ISPs. This is what the Bush FCC appears to have planned for you.
      • by Pxtl (151020) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:31PM (#11674039) Homepage
        Fine. They're saying they have control over their network? Sue the pants off of them for every scrap of kiddie porn provided by a user, every spam sent out from their network, every hacker busted over their wires. If they can control the flow through their traffic like that, then they're responsible for their traffic. Can't have it both ways.
        • Wow (Score:2, Troll)

          by Wrexs0ul (515885)
          Sir, this is by far the smartest response I've ever read on Slashdot.

          Thank you.

          -Matt
    • I don't think it's the phone companies, but the broadband ISP's that are doing the blocking..

      potentially defensible.. a sip phone is in fact a 'server' which is forbidden by most AUP's

      (for those of you whose isp's allow servers, I SAID MOST DAMNIT, and you are very lucky indeed)

      • Read the article! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:21PM (#11673963) Homepage
        Well, according to the article the blocking is being done by the LECs, which are merely telephone companies that provide local service.
      • Please define a server? Is that something that can receive incomming data and respond to it w/o the user interacting? Then any mail client that checks the server for new e-mail is a server.

        Comcast defines a server as:

        run programs, equipment, or servers from the Premises that provide network content or any other services to anyone outside of your Premises LAN (Local Area Network), also commonly referred to as public services or servers. Examples of prohibited services and servers include, but are not limite

        • Server: Something that actively listens all the time on a port.

          A VoIP phone would definitly qualify as that (at least if you accept incoming phone calls). An e-mail client, does not listen on any ports (at least not any I've ever heard of). They might have a connection they established that exists for a long time. But at no point in time does any sane e-mail client issue:

          listen(...);
          ...
          accept( ... );

          However, any number of SMTP, IMAP and POP3 servers do that as part of normal operations.

          You might

          • An e-mail client, does not listen on any ports

            The popular Mac shareware email client I wrote about a decade ago was an SMTP server first (as well as client), then I added POP later. SMTP was the way to to transfer mail before all these fancy shmancy protocols for storing mail came along.

          • Re:server, really? (Score:5, Informative)

            by DDumitru (692803) <[doug] [at] [easyco.com]> on Monday February 14, 2005 @10:35PM (#11674440) Homepage
            You dont understand how SIP works.

            VOIP calls run exclusively over UDP packets. There is not a TCP packet to be found. SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol is a UDP handshake that is used to setup a connection. With consumer VOIP circuits, the client will send a SIP registration request to the SIP proxy server (Vonage in this case). The proxy server will reply with an OK. The actual payload of the UDP packets looks just like an HTTP transaction (complete with a GET and headers) and ditto for the reply. It is just not in a TCP stream. If a packet gets lost, then it is lost and the transaction does not happen.

            The SIP client will nearly continually repeat this UDP registration followed by shorter "keep alive" exchanges. The idea is to keep any NAT router happy so that the channel now is end-to-end connected.

            If the server needs to ring your phone, it now has an IP address and UDP port number that it can send a packet to. This then causes the SIP client to setup an RTP "connection". Again, these are UDP packets and TCP is nowhere to be found. The RTP connection is basically a set of UDP packets sent out very quickly. For a non-compressing codec (like G711.u [aka ulaw]), this means 50 UDP packets/second of about 220 bytes each. The packets go both ways at full speed (which is why VOIP does not work over dialup). There is no error detection. If a packet is lost, 20ms of voice is dropped.

            So is a SIP client a server. I don't think so. I think it is wrong to describe a server as something that listens on a port. In the case of residential internet access, it is not the listening that the ISP does not like. It is the bandwidth and usage patterns. A better metric would be "is this a one to one communication". A web server is one to many. Ditto for streaming video. SIP is one to one. If you want to call SIP a server, then you should probably call an IM client a server as well.

            What the ISPs are really doing is trying to figure out how to charge some people "more" when they can get away with it. It is not just "usage", but also an arbitrary categorization of what is residential access. From a purely network and traffic point of view, bittorrent should be the first thing outlawed. A local webserver on port 80 is nothing compared to a good torrent.

            The other issue is "should an ISP be allowed to block competitors traffic". A lot of people argue against regulation of any kind. If you are one of these then you are a fool. If you leave a company completely without regulation, they will steal from you. There have to be limits to their behaviour. I have seen VOIP companies that claim, in the contracts, that they don't honor local number portability requests. They are saying that if you get a phone number from then that they will not give it up. Perhaps the regulations have not caught up to VOIP providers, but this policy is wrong, probably illegal, and the government should work to stop it. Similarily, if an ISP has a policy to hurt a competitors traffic so that their service works better, then that ISP is wrong. If this is not against the law, then the law should be enlarged to stop the practice. At the very least, this policy should be openly disclosed by the ISP to all of their customers up front.

            It is about time for businesses to provide service to their customers instead of feeling like their customers are their property to leverage.
            • Re:server, really? (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ptimmons (235569)
              Apparently you have some misconceptions of how SIP works too.

              The latest SIP RFC (RFC 3261) *requires* (in normative text) that all devices support both TCP and UDP as transport protocols. SIP devices MUST use TCP as a transport mechanism if the message to be sent is within 200 bytes of the MTU of the transit link.

              Also, SIP has no "GET" header (like HTTP). The SIP methods defined by RFC 3261 include INVITE, REGISTER, ACK, BYE, CANCEL, and OPTIONS. Other subsequent SIP-related RFCs include other methods
        • Is that something that can receive incoming data and respond to it w/o the user interacting? Then any mail client that checks the server for new e-mail is a server.

          That is not true. The email client is not contacted by the email server, it just periodically does the work of connecting to the email server for you. It is not a service that can be contacted from external sources (as a VoIP phone can).

          A SIP device does not qualify as it is not providing service network content or service to anyone out si
          • Re:server, really? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jc42 (318812)
            I've never looked into how VoIP is deployed, but suffice it to say that if it listens on a port for incoming connections, then it is a service.

            That's exactly what it has to do, if you are to receive incoming calls. In the IP sense, a traditional telephone is a "server", because it is always listening on the line for the voltage wiggle that signals an incoming call. An IP phone has to listen for incoming connections; this is done by calling the listen() library routine. The term for such a program is "
      • Yes but the issue is they are allowing say sip phones that are using their own VOIP plan. I don't see a problem with this. It's anti-competitive blah blah blah but this is what it is going to take to make the user realize that signing that contract for internet which can be limited like this, "no running servers," is a scam--they will move to ISPs that don't do this bullshit. You might say, "boo hoo, for some people they only have one broadband provider." Who cares, some people have no broadband provide
    • by Bob_Robertson (454888) on Monday February 14, 2005 @10:39PM (#11674461) Homepage
      The IP providers are trying to have it both ways.

      With one side of their face, they claim that they cannot be held accountable for the content that traverses their network. This is the "common carrier" argument, they are selling connectivity only. Just like the road is not liable for being sped upon.

      But with the other side of their face, they block services that they think are inconvenient to their business model, such as blocking port 80 inbound to subscribers unless they buy "business" rate services, or block port 25 outbound with the excuse that "it blocks spam".

      So what happens when they are dragged into court, and have to explain how they can do both of these things at the same time? Likely nothing, they have good lawyers.

      Which reminds me, the FCC would just LOVE to get their regulatory claws into the IP service business. This gives them multiple paths, "ensuring customer equity", "preventing unfair competition", and worst of all is their claiming that since the content of services they already regulate (like phones and TV) are being delivered by IP now, their regulations apply to the new medium.

      Whatever you do, don't remind them that the entire justification for the FCC is to "regulate scarce resources (broadcast spectrum) for the good of all", and IP is not a scarce resource.

      Bureaucrats hate being told they have no jurisdiction. They will go get some and come back in force. Watch out, you selective filtering IP providers, you're just setting yourselves up for a nasty fall.

      Bob-

  • It's an ISP... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) *
    ISPs routinely block traffic they don't like for whatever reason. Unless you are contracted with that ISP and you have a signed agreement with them they can start and stop whatever services they want.

    They have these loopholes to stop spam, P2P, servers, etc. Yeah, it's annoying, and yeah it sucks, but unfortunately they have that right as private carriers.

    Find an ISP that doesn't have those restrictions and use them instead.
    • Re:It's an ISP... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RubberChainsaw (669667) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:13PM (#11673921)
      But ISPs want to be seen as common carriers when it comes to the filesharing lawsuits filed by the RIAA/MPAA. If ISPs want to reserve their right to block traffic like Vonage, then they must also fufill their obligation and block illegal P2P traffic.

      They can't have their cake and eat it, too.

      • And since there is no current law or regulation prohibiting such techniques, it's unclear what Vonage's complaints to the FCC might accomplish. But Powell said the FCC might indeed have some enforcement options, specifically if carriers are found to be violating anti-competitive statutes.

        So? Unfortunately the ISPs *can* have their cake and eat it too. They can block and permit traffic as they see fit regardless of how their users feel about it.

        If the users don't like it they can choose another ISP/conn
        • Re:It's an ISP... (Score:3, Informative)

          by jc42 (318812)
          If the users don't like it they can choose another ISP/connection.

          Actually, most of them can't. In most places, there is only one ISP.

          And the comms industry in the US is pushing hard for "consolidation", to minimize the number of people who can make a choice.
    • you sound supportive of the ISPs especially with your statement that "you have signed agreement..." What if they start filtering content cuz they want to? Most people have only one broadband choice if they have any. At my location, it's comcast. It's bad enough that I have to pay $60 a month for my internet, but for them to block my traffic? That goes against what the entire internet is for. If my traffic was malicious to the general internet or their network or they have a court order, they do have
    • Re:It's an ISP... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hizonner (38491) on Monday February 14, 2005 @10:16PM (#11674328)
      Wrong. I am contracted with the ISP. My having an account with them obligates them to deliver my traffic under reasonable and customary assumptions about their service.

      That is not, by the way, modified by any fine print in their service agreements, unless they can show that customers in general read and understand the agreements. You cannot morally or (in the US or other former British possessions) legally bind somebody to a contract when you are deliberately relying on that person's not understanding the contract's terms; I believe the term is "meeting of minds".

      ISPs routinely rely on, and indeed encourage, their customers' technical and legal ignorance. They also prey on people's basic good nature, people's bizzarre respect for arbitrary corporate "policies", and people's unwillingness or lack of energy to assert their rights. They should not be allowed to get away with it. The ISP industry has become a really, really dirty one, and needs cleaning up.

      When ISPs start putting these restrictions in all their advertising, with the same prominence as their rates and (alleged) bandwidth, they can restrict customers' traffic. Until then, they are obligated to carry traffic in the reasonable and customary way... which means at least not blocking traffic to competitors, and arguably treating every packet exactly the same with no filtering, QoS, transparent proxies, restrictions on servers (how many customers understand the definition of a "server") or anything of the kind.

    • Test your ISP (Score:3, Informative)

      by fiji (4544) *
      "Find an ISP that doesn't have those restrictions and use them instead."

      Check out your current ISP with http://www.testyourvoip.com/ [testyourvoip.com]. It places a call in Java to test out your connection's ability to handle a good quality VoIP call. But it will also tell you if your provider is blocking VoIP specific ports.

      -ben
  • by redphive (175243) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:09PM (#11673882) Homepage
    As more and more broadband companies (Cable and DSL) offer VoIP (Digital Voice) services to their customers, they are going to have to ensure the product they provide is hardened against competative network resrouce usage (i.e. ANY other traffic). In the Cable world, MSOs are going to be applying QoS tags to the bits containing Voice calls from their customers. When a call originates behind one of their MTAs or eMTAs, they are expected to do this. As a result ALL other traffic should, and will suffer to some degree. Whether they are deliberately trying to break the Vonage call or not, it is going to happen.

    The simple fact of the matter is that the Triple-Play threat (Voice, Video, Data) should be more of a concern to Vonage, as bundling will end up being more of a concern than network performance.

    Oh look, a Vonage advert at the top of the page.
    • Just as a comment for those who may not be familiar with how cable services and QoS work, and how it affects Vonage...

      Vonage is limited to using standard IP QoS, since it is just a regular IP device. However, an MTA built into a cable modem has full access to the cable modem QoS code. Part of the DOCSIS specification states that a DOCSIS 1.1 cable modem must support multiple "service flows", which are basically different queues. Each of these queues has it's own classification parameters (i.e. drop pack
  • VoIP over SSL? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChipMonk (711367) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:10PM (#11673884) Journal
    If a network or a local provider is trying to block VoIP by detecting the TCP/UDP port, or the type of service (inspecting the payload), why not just run it through SSL?
    • Re:VoIP over SSL? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Husgaard (858362) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:20PM (#11673959)
      VoIP is based on UDP, and does not easily vork over TCP.

      So SSL is not really an option. IPSec might be an option.

      New port numbers or IP addresses may be simpler, but can also more easily be blocked.

      • VoIP is based on UDP, and does not easily vork over TCP.

        VOIP is not a protocol. SIP and the like are protocols. Not all protocols used for VOIP are UDP. Inter-Asterisk eXchange or IAX [asterisk.org] is TCP.

      • New port numbers or IP addresses may be simpler, but can also more easily be blocked.

        New port numbers aren't necessarily a solution, because someone calling you has to have a way to find you.

        Fortunately, while there are default port numbers, they're not hardwired into the protocol. SIP registrars (directories), redirect servers ("i've moved"), proxies (firewall traversers, PBXes), and user agent servers (sip phones doing call forwarding, etc.) can all redirect your sip negotiation to any port they like,
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have had a lot of trouble making calls to India on Vonage. It couldn't be an IP problem because I get my Vonage dialtone just fine. But I dial a number in India and it doesn't go through, or it says "this number cannot be reached." Is it possible that Indian telcos are blocking incoming POTS calls originating in the telco side? Has anyone else experienced this or am I just imagining?
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:14PM (#11673923) Homepage Journal
    that Vonage et al don't want to be taxed like telephone companies, but want the same (FCC) protections as to access to the network?

    • Vonage et al don't want to be taxed like telephone companies, but want the same (FCC) protections as to access to the network?

      Maybe because the FCC is supposed to oversee the regulated monopoly that is the offspring of the old AT&T? It's a business competitiveness issue, not a what-travels-on-the-wire issue. Any new communications service that is perceived as a threat to the Bells can be stopped cold by anticompetitive means, and the FCC is charged with watching that.

    • It's not funny at all. They are two completely seperate issues.

      Would you find it funny if you were angry at the FCC for not being allowed to setup a small radio station, and then your phone company began denying you service?

      Vonage is absolutely right not wanting to be taxed like traditional phone companies. They certainly should be taxed for their potential use of 911 services, but not for the other fees which don't make sense for a phone-company without a physical presence.
    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday February 14, 2005 @11:30PM (#11674714)
      that Vonage et al don't want to be taxed like telephone companies, but want the same (FCC) protections as to access to the network?

      I'm pretty confident that Yahoo and Google would prefer not to be taxed like telcos, but if a bunch of ILECs started blocking all traffic from/to Yahoo and Google and the ILECs' customers they would raise holy hell about it too.

      In other words, the content doesn't matter. This is the internet, bits are just bits.
  • by krem81 (578167) <.krem81. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:16PM (#11673929)
    I am usually a staunch supporter of Vonage and other VOIP providers to run their business without federal regulation and I admire the business that they built, but they should not be given the benefit of FCC shilling on their behalf. The ISP's are the owners of their networks and it is up to them whether or not they want to let Vonage through. On the other hand, it is up to Vonage to figure out ways to get around the limitations without the taxpayers' help - be it by way of exclusive agreements with the ISPs, informing consumers that their Internet use is being curtailed or simply by changing the ports it uses from time to time.

    To reiterate my point, if Vonage wants to not be regulated, it should not expect others to be regulated for its benefit.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      It is clearly anti-competitive for an ISP to force their subscribers to use one particular VoIP product. There are many places in the USA where there is only one viable choice for broadband internet, and if Vonage was blocked by those ISPs they would effectively be shut out of that area.

      This can only be negative for consumers.
  • by mctk (840035) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:16PM (#11673932) Homepage
    These ISPs should be protective. Imagine their surprise when the RIAA comes after them for letting some Vonage customer use his line to stream an mp3 to his friend's E1060.
  • Corporations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by null etc. (524767) on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:22PM (#11673970)
    "The presumption [of the Internet] is that you're fully connected," Cerf said. Any attempts to block certain application types or types of content, he said, "will destroy the utility of the Net."

    I guess this has been the presumption of the Internet for corporations, but this has never been presumed for consumers.

    How many consumers are using broadband providers that prevent them from serving web content on port 80?

    What about users who get stiffed when their "unlimited monthly Internet" gets terminated due to "excessive usage" (hence leaving us to wonder what part of the service was "unlimited"?)

    I think this is just a case of corporations get preferential treatment, when consumers would never be presumed to have the same rights.

    • I dont know about other people, but I am allowed to use all my ports with no transfer cap. I use my SBC DSL about 24/7 at 142kb/s downloading stuff, and I have never had any problems.

      Do providers just do some "pin the tail on the donkey" game with a map of the USA when it comes to transfer caps and port blocks?

      • Re:Corporations (Score:4, Informative)

        by jc42 (318812) on Monday February 14, 2005 @10:32PM (#11674424) Homepage Journal
        I am allowed to use all my ports with no transfer cap. ... Do providers just do some "pin the tail on the donkey" game with a map of the USA when it comes to transfer caps and port blocks?

        Yes, that's a good description of what they do. Hereabouts (Boston), the local linux/unix users group has had a discussion lately about Comcast blocking ports 80 and 25. Some people reported no blocking, others reported both ports blocked, others reported only one blocked. The story seems to be that they're slowly blocking these ports, one neighborhood at a time. If you don't like it, you can upgrade to business service.

        Last year, we had RCN in our neighborhood. They started blocking port 80, then started blocking port 25. We switched to speakeasy in November, because they promise not to block ports (and are linux/unix friendly ;-). But they aren't available everywhere.

        A common excuse for blocking these ports is that it's an easy way for the ISP to block whatever malware is currently infecting Windows boxes and dragging the network to a standstill. But, of course, once a port gets blocked in your neighborhood, it never gets unblocked.

        Unless you upgrade to business service.

  • by wh31788 (648762)
    I used to work for the Nasdaq stock market. What's interesting is that Vonage's founder employed a very similar strategy when he started the Island ECN. He essentially piggybacked off of Nasdaq's infrastruture in order to avoid the costs of building a network. He has since left the securities industry to venture into telecoms, but not before selling Island to some private equity firms for BIG $$$. Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining. In fact I am somewhat jealous that Vonage has come up with yet another
  • by IO ERROR (128968) * <errorNO@SPAMioerror.us> on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:28PM (#11674016) Homepage Journal
    ISPs currently aren't treated as "common carriers" under FCC rules. They can, therefore, discriminate for or against any traffic in any arbitrary manner they wish. They can screw with the competition's VoIP traffic while giving the best service to their own VoIP traffic, for instance. They can keep your VPN from working. They can tell you you can't run servers. They can tell you how much email you can send per day and what server you have to send it all through...

    So this is a mixed blessing.

    • That's correct, because they absolutely do not want the regulatory and quality-of-service burdens that come along with common-carrier status. However, what they do want (and are lobbying heavily for) are the same protections and immunities from prosecution granted the old-line phone companies. I don't they they should get it: there needs to be some kind of carrot dangling over their heads to keep them honest.

      Hopefully, competitive pressure will keep ISPs from becoming too onerous. I have Comcast (from wa
  • Why not tunnel? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:30PM (#11674032)
    When we built our own VoIP technology we used blowfish encryption and used dynamic ports. As a result, the packets look like generic TCP packets and there is no way to tell what's underneath.
    • Re:Why not tunnel? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110)
      The answer to "why not" is bandwidth and latency. The extra bandwidth is trivial on a corporate network and the like, but over slower links, it could pose a problem, especially with multiple simultaneous VoIP connections. Latency is the bane of all interactive services over IP, and bad enough as it is, without adding more.

      Dynamic ports is certainly a good idea, though.
    • ...and, indeed, there are quite a lot of folks using OpenVPN in UDP mode for moving VoIP traffic.

      Trying to tunnel a protocol which has its own reliability layer through another protocol which also implements a reliability layer makes bad things happen [sites.inka.de].
  • by Space_Soldier (628825) <not4_u@hotmail.com> on Monday February 14, 2005 @09:40PM (#11674095)
    The human being will always play dirty if it can and it is allowed to...
  • E911 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ant2 (252143) on Monday February 14, 2005 @10:01PM (#11674216)
    I work for a major backbone company who provides VoIP services to a number of players. We are getting ready to roll out Enhanced 911 (E911) service. Any company found to be arbitrarily blocking calls (including 911 calls) might be in for a bit of a legal surprise.
  • As Buckwheat might say, "it's as simple as dat!"

    I mean, I like my cable modem and all, but the day Time Warner decides to shit on my VoIP connection in favor of their overpriced junk ($15/mo Vonage does me just fine, don't need unlimited talking LD or local) is the day I drop the whole megillah.
  • They aren't exactly a victim... they just get made when people do it to them...

    http://sipphone.com/press/pr_sep30_2004.html [sipphone.com]

    Vonage locks hardware without informing users... but that's not anti-competitive.
  • They can't win. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061)
    It's easy to block H323 traffic, but try blocking SIP or IAX traffic, it's not that easy, it can go through proxys, and you may even use it over SSH. Absolutely undetectable. The only thing that may tell that you are using VoIP is the network activity, you can easily identify a voip conversation with ethercap (forget about open ports and/or content), it's usually a constant flow of packets, in both directions, using a somehow stable bitrate. But even that can be hidden under a ssh connection.

    ALMAFUERTE
  • by evilviper (135110) on Monday February 14, 2005 @10:36PM (#11674447) Journal
    Analysts expect the issue of network neutrality (or network discrimination) is only going to get larger as the bell and cable companies expand their VoIP efforts

    More than competing services from providers, the consolidation of communication companies is going to have a huge negative impact. Maybe they'll start providing VoIP for free, by raising monthly cable/DSL prices by $20/mo., gradually. Perhaps they'll institue a system-wide policy to slow-down VoIP traffic from other providers, and/or drop a fairly small number connections from competitors over a (randomized) length of time.

    More than that, the consolidated companies can throw their weight around much more. The FCC should slap any ISP for doing something like this, but with such large companies, they can bribe everyone in Wahington, and have enough lobbyists to provide as many sound-bytes as it takes.

    As I type this, Verizon is merging with MCI, and somewhere a few more politicans and CEOs are getting richer, while driving service, reliability, etc., into the ground.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Monday February 14, 2005 @11:12PM (#11674636) Homepage
    The mail ISP in my country, a former monopolist (and almost sole ISP) is tring this stunt. However, there are alot of unaware people falling for their 'great service'. But basically they are giving private IPs, and NATiing all their traffic on that service to one public IP, so VOIP cannot work on that service. And of course the package they offer with VOIP capabilties are much higer priced than the other service. And yes, they are also the main telephone company. They have very little compeition in land lines.
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:16AM (#11675096)
    I have three types of cable coming in to my house:

    1. Powerlines
    2. Non-Twisted Copper
    3. Coaxial cable

    The first two types are connected to networks that were built with taxpayer assistance. Thanks to that, the services (and associated charges) comming over those wires are REGULATED by federal, state, and local laws.

    The last type is connected to a network that was built by private companies with private sector dollars. That network is "slightly" regulated in that the cable company is given a monopoly on the township for a limited time span.

    The way I see it, if a private company owns the network - they should decide what services will be provided on that network.

    If consumers and federal/state/local governments do not like the options given to them by those private networks, they should make it a priority to fund (via tax dollars) a public network that can be run according to need.

    Take the city of brotherly love - Philadelphia, PA for example. The city is tired of waiting for private cellular phone companies to provide wireless internet service, so the city is looking at building their own. Why shouldn't the government compete with the private sector? Especially in situations where the private sector is falling GROSSLY short on services, but collecting a king's ransom?

    Capitalists claim competition is a key driver of efficiency in markets (they are right) - but why can't the government be a player in that market?

    -ted
    • The last type is connected to a network that was built by private companies with private sector dollars. That network is "slightly" regulated in that the cable company is given a monopoly on the township for a limited time span.

      I don't think I've ever seen a cable company that really paid for the whole cost of their network. If you're cable is on a pole line, the they are most likely using pole lines built and paid for by the electric and phone companies. This doesn't include the easement for the pole lin

  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:39AM (#11675816) Homepage
    Skype's peer-to-peer randomly distributed connectivity is impossible to detect, impossible to lock down, and therefore impossible to block.

    The skype program can even automatically detect whether a connection is BEING blocked, and can decide to set up a new connection to another intermediate machine.

    Remember - skype's program makes at least 50 random connections to other computers in the distributed network, and any one of these could be used to route voice traffic.

    Carriers stand absolutely zero chance of blocking skype.

    Which is why I've been advocating the creation of a public distributed "VPN" along the same lines - to carry more than just VoIP traffic.
  • The argument that LECs and ISPs have been using to avoid liability for filesharing is that they are not content providers and have no responsibility to filter or otherwise regulate the content that is delivered over their links. However, once they start filtering VoIP, then they are implying that they are indeed making an effort to regulate content, and therefore are opening themselves up to more legal nightmares.
  • Solution: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alsee (515537) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @05:53PM (#11682323) Homepage
    Why don't they use encrypted packets and random or pseudo-random port numbers?

    That's pretty much the solution any time some idiot tries to filter your network traffic. At that point they either have to let it though or they have to start blocking any traffic they can't identify. And the latter option results in a substantially unusable internet connection and they'd lose all their customers.

    -

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