Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Are Cable Companies targeting VoIP?

The cable companies in the US and Canada may be moving to quash what they perceive as a threat: Voice-over-IP (or VoIP). A Canadian cable company is now charging customers a tarriff on the use of VoIP applications (never mind that it's just another form of IP traffic). Canada's Shaw Communications requires that customers pay a $10 "packet prioritization fee". This little tax serves to stifle the use of innovative IP applications, which is precisely what many fear will happen in the US if network neutrality regulations aren't enacted and enforced.

Some Comcast customers are also complaining that their provider is purposefully degrading their Vonage phone calls. On an independent VoIP forum, many users have complained about issues running Vonage over Comcast. The implication is, of course, that there's some sort of nefarious packet-filtering going on.

My opinion: things will likely only get worse with the phone companies coalescing to form only two major providers (AT&T and Verizon). There will be little incentive to innovate, more incentive to deter innovation, and plenty of opportunities for collusion. If we're leaving it up to two phone companies and a couple of cable leviathans to spur competition, we're really grasping at straws.

It really could be the end of the Internet as we once knew it.

Networking Pipeline: Are the Cable Companies Trying to Kill VoIP?

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