Remember ClearWire, and how upset everyone got that they were blocking VoIP traffic. (Vonage suffered as a result, which is a shame!) but many other ISPs are planning to, or can do exactly the same. David Farber’s Interesting People mailing list has a thread going on Earthlink’s cable “terms of service” which permits exactly that. I don’t think Earthlink has enforced this, but still, don’t be surprised if it ever happens. Masnick reminds those who wish to block VoIP, voice is really data. I add, data which actually brings a few pennies home. (via Broadband Reports)
5 thoughts on “Earthlink can block VoIP too”
It looks like this restriction applies to wireless access service. Verizon Wreless has a similar such restriction for their EV-DO service.
Granting their right to demand any condition to gain access to their network, if they want to label themselves an ISP, then they should not place requirements on the applications. Instead they should place restrictions based on the network layer parameters.
Having run a large ISP (400k+ consumers, plus business and IDC) in Australia, where bandwidth definitely isn’t free and peering options for ISPs limited — thanks to TELSTRA, I have no idea why ISPs are picking on VoIP versus P2P. VoIP’s bandwidth requirements (small and short-term) are no where a threat to an ISP’s service levels versus what Download Managers and P2P programs can affect.
Of course ISPs, like CableCos, and Telcos, want to protect new revenue streams; but the beauty of ISPs like Earthlink in the past (and I would expect the same for Clearwire) is that they attracted the non-AOL type of customer: customers who want an open-standards ISP that allows them the bandwidth they need, to use with the applications they want.
As soon as these stand-alone ISPs start port blocking or any other form of degrading third-party applicaiton service levels they will deter early adopters, gamers, and other tech heavy users who provide much of the buying advice to others.
How fair is it to block Vonage or 8X8 yet allow MSN Messengers great audio/video capabilities go without fuss or risk a huge customer backlash.
I think these companies are forgetting the users that got them on the map!
I would agree with Ash.
Broadband providers are increasingly carrying all this high value data over their networks, yet they’re not really being compensated for their access to the consumer. You take this a little further into the future and broadband will be the primary delivery mechanism for dozens (maybe hundreds) of different data-related services (some of them worth LOTS of money). If these services can be provided without participation by the ISP, then the ISP is relegated to providing foundation level service (essentially plain vanilla access) with no participation in the high-margin value-adds. In other words, they’re stuck selling a low margin commodity, forever. What’s worse, these services load the network in ways that they haven’t always anticipated (I don’t think current DSL infrastructure was really designed with P2P VOD in mind.) As anyone will tell you, the biggest threat to margins within a flat monthly fee service is variable cost. Well, loading the network does carry variable cost.
While short sighted, this reaction by the ISPs is really a logical defense until they can figure out how to deal themselves back in the game. I would anticipate many ISPs trying to establish relationships with providers like Vonage to provide some sort of QoS guarantees. If Vonage feels like they’ve got their back against the wall, then they just might deal, even if it drives their marginal costs up slightly. Again, I’m not sure that this is the smartest way to go about things, I would anticipate much more of this activity as more and more services get rolled out over these networks.