US slaps fine on company blocking VoIP

Bill Nash billn at
Fri Mar 4 22:08:47 UTC 2005

On Fri, 4 Mar 2005, Nathan Allen Stratton wrote:

> I don't speak for BroadVoice, but this seams to be to be stupid. Why
> should the government get involved in ISPs blocking ports? If customers
> don't like it, go to a new provider, what country is this??
> Frankly, I don't see the point, any provider that requires 5060 or any
> other port to offer VoIP services deserves to be shutoff by networks
> blocking those ports. It is just to easy to talk to CPE on any port.

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.

I'm a Vonage customer myself, because I like the flexibility and control 
it provides me over my phone service. I'm also a Cox broadband customer. 
With Cox being a telephone provider, the instant they decide to begin 
filtering VOIP in order to reduce competition for their product, you can 
bet I'm going to voting with my dollar.

Any CPE based customer is paying for a connection to the Internet. Unless 
they're subscribing to a specifically limited or structured access service 
(like AOL, for example), they have a reasonable expectation to use the 
service to do.. customer-like things. Knowingly subscribing to a service 
that will allow me to connect, outbound only, to tcp ports 80 and 443, 
with all mail going to a specific MTA, I would not reasonably expect to be 
utilizing that style of service for VOIP, and that would be fine. This is 
not, however, the style of service I'm paying for, and far less than my 
provider has already agreed to provide me with.

This extends all the way to transit peering agreements, as well. I don't 
recall ever seeing one that says "We agree to transit all traffic except 
VOIP." What would be the point? I wouldn't agree to buy incomplete transit 
any more than I'd try to sell it.

To have a company that also provides telephone service to specifically 
block a competiting service, which customers are paying them to transit, 
is a breach of contract at best, and outright criminal at worst.

- billn

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