Network neutrality in action

FCC wants to know if Comcast is interfering with VoIP

This potential choppiness stands in contrast, the FCC contends, to Comcast’s own VoIP product, Comcast Digital Voice (CDV), a difference that Comcast discloses on its FAQ Network Management page. “Is Comcast Digital Voice affected by this [network management] technique?” the page asks. “What about other VoIP providers?”

No, the company explains. CDV is a “separate facilities-based IP phone service” and “is not affected by this technique.”

The Commission would like some more details about this assertion. “We request that Comcast explain why it omitted from its filings with the Commission the distinct effects that Comcast’s new network management technique has on Comcast’s VoIP offerings versus those of its competitors,” its letter asks. And how is CDV “facilities based”? the agency wants to know, and does it impact network congestion differently from other VoIP providers?
Subject to regulation?

The soup gets even hotter. If Digital Voice represents a consumer offering “distinct,” in the FCC’s words, from its “broadband offering,” then it could conceivably be classified as “the privileged transmission of information of the customer’s choosing across Comcast’s network,” the agency suggests. In other words, by virtue of the way Comcast has structured its VoIP product, it’s a “telecommunications” rather than an “information” service, and thus potentially subject “to the same intercarrier compensation obligations applicable to other facilities-based telecommunications carriers.”

Of course they favor their own product over their competitors. The only thing they didn’t reckon with is that they may have thereby put their product in a different, way more expensive regulatory category.

This is actually an interesting potential solution to the net-neutrality issue: as soon as a big ISP treats its own offering of voice or video or whatever differently from those of its IP-based competitors, those products go in a different regulatory category, and all of a sudden a bunch of franchise fees, intercarrier obligations, per-subscriber fee payments and so forth go into effect.


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