Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Supreme Court Ruling Results in VoIP Blocking?

Tom Keating - VoIP Blog


According to a Forbes article, the recent Supreme Court Ruling against a small Internet service provider called Brand X Internet will open the door to VoIP blocking. The Supreme Court ruled that cable operators don't need to share their broadband access lines with other businesses. Thus, the Forbes article "theorizes" that this will lead to VoIP port blocking by the cable broadband providers by stating, "That's good news for big cable companies but could be trouble for voice-over-Internet Protocol providers like Vonage, which sell digital phone service."

Jeff Pulver seems to agree that port blocking will occur when he is quoted in the Forbes article, "I believe it's a matter of when, not if. If I'm a service provider offering my own voice-over-broadband offering, and I've got the ability to block my competition, why not?"

Respectfully to both Forbes and Pulver, I say, "hogwash!"

All it takes is one 911 call to fail due to cable companies performing port blocking and the million dollar lawsuit that will ensue will keep the cable companies in line. The liability is just to great. The FCC will step in and prevent this from happening. If not the FCC then certainly Congress will step in if rampant port blocking were to occur.

The financial risk to smaller broadband providers is just to risky to "test" the legality of port blocking. As for the larger broadband players, let's just imagine for argument sake that tomorrow Cablevision (based in New York + Northeast) started port blocking anyone using Vonage that uses Optimum Online high-speed Internet. I would guesstimate that on any given day there are hundreds of 911 calls in the New York/Northeast area. Of those hundreds of 911 calls, lets say just 20 of them use Vonage. That's 20 potential lawsuits in one day. Now let's assume these 911 lawsuits aren't filed for a month or so. That's 30 days x 20 lawsuits per day = 600 potential lawsuits before Cablevision realizes what a terrible mistake they made? C'mon, they're smarter than that. I'm sure they have lawyers that assess this kind of liability risk. Sorry, Forbes, but port blocking by the cable broadband providers just ain't gonna happen.

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