Canadian ISP Degrades Vonage

It's starting.

Shaw Communications and its Canada-based cable MSO subsidiary have filed a series of court documents that aim to "set to record straight" regarding a "Quality of Service Enhancement" package being offered to Vonage customers and customers of other third-party VoIP services that leverage the public Internet.

The documents, filed in the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench in Calgary, note that Shaw's IP-based phone service is offered over the operator's QoS-enabled, managed network, while Vonage's service travels the public Internet and is open to packet delays and other "inherent limitations."

Shaw reiterated that its high-speed data customers who also use the Vonage service can take the QoS Enhancement service on a completely optional basis. The enhancement runs $10 per month.

Vonage has previously complained of the tactic, referring to it as a "thinly-veiled VoIP tax," and has since requested that the Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission step in to investigate the matter.

Welcome to a non-neutral internet.

Please call your Senators.

Tags: net neutrality, Vonage (all tags)

Comments

10 Comments

Re: Canadian ISP Degrades Vonage

Any reason we aren't calling this an "Internet tax" because that's pretty much what this is.  

by Eric11 2006-06-19 05:27PM | 0 recs
What is the Future of the Internet?

Hey Matt...nice to see you reading CED.  You are serious about this stuff :-).

This episode isn't new, though this latest step in the Canadian regulatory process seems to be.  Shaw's been doing this for about year.  In this post from early March I discussed how this case is a good example of the business and policy issues related to the fundamental issues underlying the NN debate.  

This kind of thing is a fundamental and chronic problem when pipe-owners are also service providers in competitive markets.  It may also be an indicator of how hard it is to avoid any "cooking" of the cost books to get around NN-style regulation in these situations (a problem that has plagued telco regulation for decades).  

The best solution is to divorce pipe ownership from retail service, but there's no way that Congress will impose that on telcos and cablecos.  NN may help--maybe a lot, maybe not much.  Municipal ownership of a wholesale network may be the only real long term solution.  It also has the benefits of providing "public" services and benefits that private providers will not have enough financial incentive to deliver.

On a related note, I watched the new HandsOff "What is the Future of the Internet" cartoon, which, BTW, is currently running on the MyDD site.  It talks about the future "smart network" that will deliver telco and cable versions of the Internet.

A lot of very smart techies, including David Isenberg, who used to work for AT&T Bell Labs, and Gary Bakula, a VP in the Internet2 organization,  have made a very strong case that a "neutral (a.k.a. 'stupid') network" is a lot more technically and economically efficient solution than the "smart network" alluded to in the HandsOff ad.  

When the HandsOff cartoon got to the point of "it's a smart network," where it was showing all these "lanes" of services, I couldn't help but think it was begging for a response--perhaps one that's also in the form of a cartoon or graphic--from the neutral network side of the debate.  

I'd suggest something that makes the point that in a "neutral network" future, it's the end users who control the content they receive, not the pipe owners. I'm not sure how to best do this in a way that would be simple, clear and high-impact (images of toll booths slowing some companies' "packet" traffic or detouring it to skinny, crowded lanes comes initially to mind, but there are probably better ideas out there). But I do think this cartoon opens up an opportunity for a response that simply and clearly clarifies some key architectural aspects of the debate that could possibly win more hearts and minds (and, dare I say, a few votes in Congress?) for the neutral network side. Any ideas, comments?

by mitchipd 2006-06-19 05:37PM | 0 recs
"Show Me The Money"

Or should I say, show me the evidence. As I read the articles, Shaw is establishing a separate network which anyone can pay their ten bucks a month to send their VoIP over. They're not restricting VoIP use on their normal network, nor are they degrading VoIP packets when they come into their network.

As someone who designs networks, I don't have a problem with this. They're creating their own QoS-managed distinct network, and are allowing anyone to access it for ten bucks. Critically, they're not impeeding the flow of any inbound packets, nor are they saying that your packets will be the fastest ones anywhere. They're saying that "anywhere we've got this fancy network, you'll go a different route, and get there faster." Normal service isn't being affected, and the mass-use lanes arn't being compromised.

Have a read of an excellent post on the difference here.

by Scipio 2006-06-19 08:06PM | 0 recs
Re: "Show Me The Money"

That's how I read it too, so I'm not sure this is a good example. It doesn't seem like the regular service is affected at all and it doesn't seem mandatory to use the new serivce.

So I'm not sure what the point that Stoller is trying to get across here is.

by MNPundit 2006-06-20 03:58AM | 0 recs
Re: "Show Me The Money"

Excellent point.  There is absolutely no evidence of the service being degraded in any way.  These are the kind of misconceptions and poor examples that myself and others with Hands Off the Internet are trying to combat.

Vonage's VoIP files are traveling along the public internet like data of any other kind.  So saying "Canadian ISP Degrades Vonage" is not just misleading, but flat out false.  There is no degrading occuring of the VoIP data packets at all.

Matt, if your idea of a "non-neutral" internet is one where no degradation occurs and people can get enhanced service for only $10 extra...I'm not sure what we're all supposed to be afraid of.

by 4 a better internet 2006-06-20 06:38AM | 0 recs
Spin zone.

A truly nuetral internet can be compared to one big 4 lane highway where information flows freely, with no one caring what type of information is flowing and in what direction.

Compare this to the desired scenario of the telecoms/ISPs where 1 of the 4 lanes of the highway is split off and given a nice 70 or 80 mph speed limit. Those who are willing to pay a premium, and drive a certain highway approved type of car can then get to where they want to go faster than everyone else. That doesn't sound like freedom of choice to me. It is also important to remember that to dedicate a portion of the finite bandwidth an ISP/telecom has to a certain application necessarily means removing bandwidth from other applications: I.e.: Its a slowdown without having to bother touching the information itself.

by TimThe Terrible 2006-06-20 09:38AM | 0 recs
Re: "Show Me The Money"

As I said earlier in this thread ( http://www.mydd.com/story/2006/5/20/1859 8/3538 ), this situation--including the specific price Shaw is charging, raises a deeper level of the NN-related debate.  

There's a fundamental problem that exists when the end-to-end "stupid network" Internet model interacts with the "vertically-integrated duopoly pipe-owner smart (IMS) network" model. QoS isn't the issue.  Yes, it may be a factor that has to be addressed in today's legacy networks, but the real issue is the fundamental incompatibility of the Internet model with the cable-telco legacy business models and networks.

For the Internet to grow to its full potential, pipe ownership needs to be divorced from provision of retail services.  Public ownership of ultra-high-capacity "Internet roads" that don't need much, if any QoS (see http://www.mydd.com/story/2006/5/20/1847 14/000), are the answer.

Maybe ex-hedge fund manager Andy Kessler, writing in the Weekly Standard, of all places, is on to something with his eminent domain arguments (or at least he raises some issues worth raising):
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Pu blic/Articles/000/000/012/348yjwfo.asp

by mitchipd 2006-06-20 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Canadian ISP Degrades Vonage

Two things:

1) Every provider has a finite amount of bandwidth to work with at any given time. Therefore by walling one section off for only one type of traffic, you are necessarily decreasing the flow on the rest of the network.

2) Slowing and dropping packets (small chunks of information sent over a network) and resetting connections (and breaking any download in progress) has become extremely commonplace these days as ISPs exert tighter and tighter control over all the information that flows accross their pipes.

Initially I believe it started with desire to eliminate or severely hamper bit torrent peer to peer file sharing traffic which (as has been widely publicized) is a huge HUGE amount of the current internet traffic. This type of technology however has let the telecoms realize that they can now degrade or stop any type of traffic they want at any time they want and it is very hard to detect and even harder to prove without a whistleblower.

No wonder they are working very hard to make it 100% legal to use this technology to its fullest extent, it's an absolute goldmine.

by TimThe Terrible 2006-06-20 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Canadian ISP Degrades Vonage

No problem. I am more than happy to help.

by TimThe Terrible 2006-06-20 11:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Canadian ISP Degrades Vonage

I posted about this problem back in april.

I am a Shaw + Vonage customer in BC.

http://www.average-guys.com/2006/04/22/t he-shaw-cable-voip-conspiracy-theory/

Non-Net neutrality is a reality for me these days.  I'm still sticking with Vonage and still getting shitty connections.  Call me stubborn.

by averageguy 2006-06-27 06:26PM | 0 recs

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