Blocking VoIP, Other Apps - Clearwire Blockade Finds Industry

Jack Decker notes: My comment follows the (very short) article ...

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Blocking VoIP, Other Apps Clearwire blockade finds industry support?

As mentioned last week , Clearwire faces criticism for blocking a number "high bandwidth" applications, including some Vonage customers; their TOS says they may "without limitation, block and allow traffic types as we see fit at any time."

Light Reading

has a number of curious quotes from ISPs who support Clearwire, and features U.S. Internet Industry Association president David McClure

*mocking* Vonage for complaining about service blockades. [Jack Decker Comment: The basic issue here is much larger than VoIP - the fact is that most people who pay a monthly fee for broadband expect to be able to connect to "the Internet" and all the applications available there. For some strange reason a few ISP's seem to have the attitude that it's not sufficient that their customers are paying for an Internet connection, but instead they feel that if they offer an add-on service such as VoIP, they should be able to block competitive services. Now, I want you to think about the Internet services you use and the web pages you visit, because let me tell you, if they make this stick, NOTHING on the Internet is guaranteed accessible to you.

Let's suppose, for example, that you use AIM or ICQ, and all your friends are on the same instant messaging service. And let's say you get your broadband from SBC, which as it happens, has a partnership with Yahoo. And, of course, Yahoo has its own instant messaging service. So let's suppose that suddenly one day you find that your AIM or ICQ no longer works, because it can't connect to their server, because SBC is blocking access to force you to use Yahoo's Instant Messaging program. So, okay, you e-mail your friends and ask them to download the Yahoo program, only maybe some of them find it won't work because they have cable broadband and their cable company has struck a deal with Microsoft and they are only allowed to use the MSN instant messaging program. See the problem?

Or let's say your a politician, and you're running for re-election, and you have put up a blog to communicate with voters. Only your blog site is blocked by some ISP's because they have an exclusive agreement with a particular blog syndicator and your blog isn't part of that syndicate. Or, what the heck, maybe they just happen to like your opponent, so on a whim the company president decided to block access to everything you -- your web site, your blog site, whatever. Maybe, just to make it more legit, they asked your opponent to pay them $1, for which he receives exclusive access from customers of that ISP.

My point is this: Up until now, Internet providers have pretty much acted like common carriers -- in fact, they have evaded prosecution on copyright infringement charges by explicitly stating that they were common carriers and do not monitor the traffic that their customers send back and forth. Now, all of a sudden, a few of them seem to want to go the other way. Well if that be the case, and they no longer claim to be common carriers but in fact are actively blocking certain kinds of traffic, then watch the lawsuits begin for the traffic they DON'T block -- and they have brought it all on themselves by their greed.

For those of you who read this and are connected with an Internet Service Provider, and if your ISP belongs to the "U.S. Internet Industry Association", may I respectfully suggest that you think long and hard about David McClure's comments in Light Reading, and whether that is the type of organization you wish to belong to. I say that because in my opinion, with comments of the type he is making in this article, he is inviting both government regulation and potential lawsuits on Internet Service Providers such as yours. The RIAA and the MPAA and similar groups would probably be absolutely ecstatic if you were to renounce your defacto common carrier status, because you have much deeper pockets than most of the people using your ISP. Remember that sometimes there are unintended consequences to actions, and in my opinion Mr. McClure is not thinking clearly about the possible consequences of his attitude.

End of commentary.]

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