More on Vonage service disruptions...

advancedIPpipeline is running another article this morning
in their series of articles covering the Vonage service
disruptions that [allegedly] invlove an ISP "port blocking"
SIP connectitity between Vonage's client equipment and
Vonage's servers. While there is a bit more decriptive
detail in this article involving the nature of the service
interruptions, Vonage's CEO, Jeffrey Citron, is trying
to make a [in my opinion] weak argument that this type
of traffic blocking is akin to censorship.

http://www.advancedippipeline.com/news/60404589

The silliness of the "censorship" argument aside, an
interesting snippet within this article started me
thinking abut the "slippery slope" which might
ensue if any type of legislation is enacted which
would attempt to prohibit an ISP from blocking
traffic in an effort to keep it [unwanted traffic]
from traversing their network:

"'It'd be unfortunate to have to pass a law [against
port blocking and other types of interference], but
we may have to,' Citron said. Though he said he has
previously testified against the need for port-blocking
regulation, Citron may now change that tune, especially
if more network operators start using port-blocking or
other techniques to selectively control Internet
traffic."

It looks to me like this is going to open up a huge can
of worms. On one hand, you have ISP's who own their own
infrastructure and have every right to prohibit traffic
from traversing their network which does not conform to
their AUP, business practices, technical standards, etc.,
or provide revenue. By the same token, and specifically
when it comes to things like VoIP, we have these issues
involving PUC's, FCC regulations, "equal access" rights,
etc.

IANAL (or a policy wonk), and I hope I'm wrong, but it
certainly looks like things could get pretty ugly.

- ferg

Actually, anticompetitive, and restraint-of-trade come in as better arguments. They go along with blocking port 587/110, keeping users from getting at legitimate, well-run remote mail servers. The end user paid for packet service, and the Internet generally permits any protocol to be run. ISPs legitimately block traffic at various protocol levels to deal with security and abuse matters. That's unlikely with VOIP.

Blocking for dealing with security issues is one matter. Blocking to purposely harm competition is another, and will indeed open a can of worms if it persists.

The subject is of most concern at the edge.
There are multiple long-haul providers, but often
the consumer has only one option for multi-megabit connectivity.

The entity currently enjoying the edge monopoly attempts to
create vertical service alignment, to maximize profit.
They DON'T want to provide packet data service,
they want to provide ALL services (control content, filter, etc).
This is not a technical matter, it's senior staff maximizing rate of return.

To diverge from VoIP, an interesting situation will present itself
in the future. Verizon is installing FTTH. Data offerings
in their present service area are: 5, 15, and 30Mbps downstream.
http://www22.verizon.com/fiosforhome/channels/fios/root/package.asp
These speeds would support broadcast quality video delivery
(even HD quality) if properly implemented.

As hot a topic as voice is, the total money involved is decreasing.
Video services, however, still represent a huge revenue stream.
Will Verizon be a pure pipe provider? Or, will they attempt to control services?

It would be nice to see Comcast get some meaningful competition.
Till now, they could never find the money to upgrade or maintain their
RF plant, but they had money available to pursue acquisition of Disney...

As troublesome as VoIP may (appear) to be, imagine video.
Very high duty-cycle, multi-megabit streams. "36ccs", so to speak.

But, content creators could sell directly to end users.
Potentially, no cable company, no TV networks.
Perhaps even the studio structure will collapse.

A lot depends on how well the FTTH providers, and their
long-haul backbone partners do their job. Whether they
embrace disruptive change, or resist it as an annoyance to their routine.

Actually, anticompetitive, and restraint-of-trade come in as better
arguments. They go along with blocking port 587/110, keeping users from
getting at legitimate, well-run remote mail servers. The end user paid for
packet service, and the Internet generally permits any protocol to be run.
ISPs legitimately block traffic at various protocol levels to deal with
security and abuse matters. That's unlikely with VOIP.

Blocking for dealing with security issues is one matter. Blocking to
purposely harm competition is another, and will indeed open a can of worms
if it persists.

The anticompettive argument is pretty dangerous. What if ISP A has VoIP
serice offering and is provisioning QoS for their VoIP service. At the
same time they are not providing any QoS for competing services or even
degrade service quality for competitors via bandwidth management.

From the ISPs perspective it makes perfect sense to beef up bandwidth to

offer VoIP to be able to carry traffic from paying VoIP subscribers. But
it doesn't make sense to beef up bandwidth to support the competition.

What it'll come down to is a definition of what services you average
ISP provides. What is internet access, a raw pipe to that indiscriminately
moves any packet from point A to point B? Obviously not, since there are
already restrictions on running servers, blocking of smtp, etc. So it is
perfectly reasonable, IMHO, for an ISP to regulate bandwidth availability
to please the majority of paying customers.

Adi

To diverge from VoIP, an interesting situation will present itself
in the future. Verizon is installing FTTH. Data offerings
in their present service area are: 5, 15, and 30Mbps downstream.
http://www22.verizon.com/fiosforhome/channels/fios/root/package.asp
These speeds would support broadcast quality video delivery
(even HD quality) if properly implemented.

I was walking down Tottenham Court Road at the weekend looking
in the shop windows. More than one of them had a 1 terabyte
hard drive on display made by LaCie. Combine that with
multiMbps FTTH and P2P networks and you have a lot of big
pipes running flat out 24x7. Back when MP3 filesharing was
all the rage it didn't take long for the market to saturate,
i.e. people had so many MP3s on their hard drive that there
was no need to keep collecting. Imagine what happens when the
same effect hits the film/DVD industry.

--Michael Dillon