Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Censorship Your Rights Online

Vonage's CEO Says VoIP Blocking Is 'Censorship' 386

Avantare writes "CEO of leading VoIP provider says port blocking of VoIP traffic is one potential small step toward an unwanted future of IP-based censorship. According to Vonage Holdings Corp. CEO Jeffrey Citron, intentional blocking of Voice over IP traffic is more than just a competitive dirty trick -- it's an act of censorship against free speech. In an exclusive interview here Tuesday [March 1], Vonage's chief executive said the issue of the company's recent incident of having some VoIP traffic blocked reaches beyond the market for IP-based voice communications and into the realm of free speech -- and as such, should be protected by the courts, the FCC, or by new telecom regulation that ensures free and open access over the Internet."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Vonage's CEO Says VoIP Blocking Is 'Censorship'

Comments Filter:
  • by Slartibartfast ( 3395 ) * <ken @ j ots.org> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:26PM (#11838187) Homepage Journal
    I was thinking about issues along these exact same lines, and a way to get arround the inherent issue -- an issue that occurs in many other places -- came to me: expand the functionality of DNS. As it is, when you perform a DNS query, you are given an IP address, a hostname, or an MX record. Would it be that much more difficult to extend it a little bit, and have an optional "service 'FOO' can be found at port 12345"? Initially, clients would still expect to find their services at traditional ports (eg., http at port 80), but anyone who truly cared could distribute modified client software, such as Firefox (or Vonage phones) with the additional functionality. This would make port blocking ridiculous, because, for example, Vonage could have a VoIP system on port 80 -- making ISPs have to start block hosts to disable VoIP, and that would truly be flagrant censorship, and disallowed. Yes, there are some complications, but I think it's something that should be considered.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:30PM (#11838243)
      http://www.rt.com/man/portmap.8.html

      Right not in DNS, but rather the host service.

      Maybe we should just IPSec wrap all communications.
    • by Soko ( 17987 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:33PM (#11838280) Homepage
      BIND 9 and the DNS server portion of Microsoft Active Directory(TM) already have this - they're call srv records. Check the RFC or see for yourself here [wikipedia.org].

      Soko
    • by msblack ( 191749 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:33PM (#11838291)
      With only 65,534 ports available, I don't think we want to start allocating *too* many of them to individual applications beyond the well-known port numbers below 1024. Use whatever ports you like. However, if your activity is disruptive to the ISP's ability to provide a minimal level of service to all their customers--not just you--they have every right to place limitiations. Free reign over the Internet is not an inherent right. Free speech doesn't even come close to applying here as it is a private network...boo hoo hoo.
      • by arkanes ( 521690 ) <arkanes.gmail@com> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:51PM (#11838524) Homepage
        Ooh, private network. Good point. I guess all the telcos better give back all that funding and the tax breaks and the eminent domain right-of-way and everything else that they got because they were making something of public benefit. There are very few large corporations, and none that built, build, or maintain nationwide infrastructure, that can make a non-laughable claim that their network is "private". Hell, strictly speaking, the *only* reason corporations are even allowed to exist as legal concepts is to provide societal benefit. It's right there in the legislation.
      • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @06:13PM (#11838769) Homepage
        "It is a private network?" Please. If a phone company started monitoring my phone calls in order to find out which brand of corn flakes I prefer, nobody would defend them by saying, "Well, it's their system."

        The Internet is becoming a critical enabler of free speech, and if those who carry Internet traffic are going to start unduly mucking about with the packets I send, then it's time to make them stop.

        You would have a point, if VOIP actually consumed mammoth amounts of bandwidth, or otherwise disrupted service for everyone. But it doesn't. Certainly there are much more pressing bandwidth hogs to go after. Anyways, all the quality of service issues that might be relevant to this could be handled by using simple traffic shaping against heavy users, without regard to what functions the traffic was serving.

        Essentially, you're saying that if the Internet can do something, but your ISP would make more money if you were doing it a different way, it has the right to keep you from doing it over the Internet.
        • Essentially, you're saying that if the Internet can do something, but your ISP would make more money if you were doing it a different way, it has the right to keep you from doing it over the Internet.

          Let me think. Hmmm... Yes! Gee that question was easy!

          I realize it's fashionable nowadays to pretend if it weren't for the benevolence of an omnipotent government we would all be miserable choice-less slaves of corporatism, but it's simply is not true. You do have a choice. If you don't like your ISP, get an
    • This is interesting, though then you have to wonder how long it will take for someone to develop something that filters after doing a DNS lookup, i.e. user wants to connect to port 80 at Vonage, filter does dns lookup and says "no way" since it isn't a web service.
    • What you've described is precisely how multicast DNS (mDNS... branded Rendezvous (now Bonjour) by Apple) does service broadcasting and browsing. You have a name for the service (foobar.raop_.apple.local. or whatever) and txt records to go along with the service (and an optional service name like 'My webserver')
    • Why should DNS be burdened with this service? Seems to me like the host offering a set of services should be able to enumerate those services to a client who asks.

      Besides, as a solution for getting around the port-blocking issue, your idea wouldn't work. All an ISP has to do is make the same query (or snoop the query) made by the customer, and if the response indicates a VoIP service on a particular port, they block traffic to it.

      • Unless of course the system was designed with rotating ports protected by a secure key. Imagine that when you sign up you are given a software key by Vonage or whatever other service provider. Whenever your client connects to the DNS server it will pass the request + a key. The DNS server will respond with a random port, which will accept a connection (from a client with your certified key) for the next 10 minutes. If you don't connect within that time or have to reconnect it'll just generate a new port
    • Just as a side question....what is to prevent Vonage or some other such company from setting up on port 80? the only technical damage (beyond setting a truely horrible precident) would be some unlikely browser getting confused when it hits port 80 on that one machine and gettign VOIP stuff instead of HTTP.
      Just wondering how that would stack up....
    • It's called a Well Known Service [menandmice.com] record (WKS). Actually, rfc 1033 [faqs.org] defines the WKS a little differently from what you've purposed. Either way, the whole concept would only make blocking a given port harder, not impossible. If the world can read your DNS records to determine which port the services they need are on, so can your ISP.
    • The ISPs don't need to port block. They can block at the application layer. Numerous solutions exist out there to shape traffic at the application layer, including recognizing the RTP traffic associated with a SIP call.

      I don't think the big guys will block VOIP. They don't need to. If they prioritize their in-house VOIP traffic and then just treat the BYOV (Bring Your Own Voip) traffic as normal web - or perhaps even a lower level, the call experience will not be as good on the BYOV as the in-house. B
    • the Isps own the modem software that is loaded (assuming dsl or cable). It become trivial to block differing ports on a per site basis.

      The only real answer is to take this to court and/or get laws passed prohibiting the FCC and the large ISPs from doing this

    • by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @06:26PM (#11838919) Homepage
      C|Net [com.com]

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:28PM (#11838208) Homepage Journal
    CEO Jeffrey Citron, intentional blocking of Voice over IP traffic is more than just a competitive dirty trick -- it's an act of censorship against free speech.

    IANAL, but I don't think HIAL either.

    • Even if he was a lawyer, his conclusion is specious given the fact that Internet providers are not government agencies. If free speech was not subject to contract law, then there'd be no such thing as non-disclosure agreements. If you pick an Internet provider the prevents you from using VOIP, then that's what you get. If you don't like it pick somebody else.

      The exception to my statement is situations where there is monopoly power in a given market. If your only option for high speed internet is one co
      • You would be correct, expcept that ISPs qualify as common carriers.

        This means that they get things like protection for bad stuff people do on their network in exchange for not being allowed to ask what people will do on their network...

        If they want to give up that protection (and have the ??IA sue *them* instead of end-users, they are welcome to do so -- then they would be legally allowed to restrict that sort of thing in [almost] any anti-competitive way they like.
  • I don't know... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by winstonmeister ( 863683 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:28PM (#11838212)
    if I'd go so far as to call it cenorship, per se, but it certainly is a scummy thing to do. Broadband companies shouldn't cherry-pick what ports they'll use, especially if they want to keep their "common carrier" status. Isn't that the defense they like to use against releasing P2P customer information to the MPAA? Or is that more of a /.-ism than something said by the companies themselves?
    • Phone companies can block what numbers you can call or receive calls from, and that hasnt affected thier common carrier status. As such, ISPs dont have common carrier status - that privilege needs to be bestowed upon an industry by a Judge I think, you dont automatically get it just because you handle other peoples traffic.
      • Re:I don't know... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MBCook ( 132727 )
        As far as I know (and I have basically no knowledge here) there are no cases on this. If there are cases, they are probably quite old. That said, if a phone company (let us assume SWB) just started blocking people from calling random number (or Sprint PCS/Cingular/NexTel stores to be more like the issue at hand) I think it would be clear that unless they could make an argument it protected the consumer (i.e. those three companies were know fraud schemes, which they aren't despite what you may think of their
  • by fatjesus ( 703825 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:28PM (#11838216)
    the market will take care of this

    the day my ISP blocks a voice over IP port is the day that I switch to another ISP
    • Ah, but if only the market were broad enough. My choices are either Cable, dial-up, or copying information to a disk and sending it through the mail. If only we all had the options you have :(
      • by fatcatman ( 800350 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:46PM (#11838464)
        That's right, more and more we just don't have options. IMHO, this is akin to the phone company blocking access to certain numbers because they just don't want to route them. How would you feel if you weren't allowed to call a phone number you wanted, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it because your telephone provider is the only one in town?

        ISPs should not be allowed to filter service like this. My DSL provider IS a phone company, about the time VOIP starts eating into their service they can just turn it off and screw me. That's not right, and is a valid reason for federal regulation of ISPs much like phone companies have been regulated for decades.
      • The data connection to one of our servers in Minnesota from where I work (in Michigan) is so slow that I came up with a reasoning as to why (I had plenty of time while getting the files I needed, and I couldn't really do anything else in the mean time):

        The packets head over to Lake Michigan, where they are loaded, one by one, onto a boat to cross the lake. When they get there, they are then sent the rest of the way by carrier pigeon. Unfortunatley, sometimes a hunter in Wisconsin shoots my pigeon down,

    • by NeoSkandranon ( 515696 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:38PM (#11838362)
      That only works given two conditions:

      1) a significant number of people are not only aware of the issue but actually care about it.

      2) a significan subset of 1) have a viable option to switch *to*
    • the day my ISP blocks a voice over IP port is the day that I switch to another ISP The day that happens, I'll have the choice of shoddy service or NO service...and I live right smack in the center of the capital. I suppose I could just rig up my cellphone, but I think they might not look kindly on it being connected 24/7. The free market isn't free, in any sense. To believe otherwise is to turn economics into religion...
    • And if you can't?

      Some ISPs have a captive audience - NTL in the UK for example, as it is the only broadband provider its subscribers can get unless they switch phone lines as well ( NTL is a Cable company that also distributes TV and telephone services over its network)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:28PM (#11838218)
    That makes my Linksys router The Ministry of Truth.
  • Censorship... (Score:3, Informative)

    by blenderking ( 324269 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:28PM (#11838220) Homepage
    Only governments censor. This would be anti-competitive. Semantics, yes, but an important distiction nonetheless.

    I'm done, carry forward with the conversation.
    • I agree. Corporations can unduly restrict the use of their products, but only governments can censor. It's an important distinction, especially at a time when corporations are acting like governments, ideas are treated like property, and citizens are regarded as "consumers."
    • Re:Censorship... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by shystershep ( 643874 ) * <bdshepherd@gmaiTWAINl.com minus author> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:35PM (#11838320) Homepage Journal
      Find a dictionary. Not sure where you got the idea that "only governments censor." It's only a First Amendment issue when the government is involved, but that doesn't change the fact that this is censorsihp: namely, an ISP telling you what communications you can send/receive over your connection.
      • no, it's not stopping you from saying anything, it's just stopping you from using one method to say it.

        They don't give a shit about the content of the conversations. It is not censorship. It's not right either, but it's definitely not censorship.
        • Re:Censorship... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ScrewMaster ( 602015 )
          Maybe Comcast, SBC and the rest of the ISP crowd don't care about the content of your communications but there are powerful groups that most definitely do care about that content. The RIAA, MPAA, BSA ... they all come to mind, and believe me they are interested in censorship, as in "eliminating all Internet traffic with which they disagree". I'm not sure what the legal definition of censorship is (that's all that counts, you know, the dictionary definition is irrelevant) but it doesn't matter. Call it what
    • Re:Censorship... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Omnifarious ( 11933 ) <eric-slashNO@SPAMomnifarious.org> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:35PM (#11838330) Homepage Journal

      I have begun to think that the distinction between corporations and governments isn't so cut & dried as some people seem to think it is. I think any organization becomes government-like as it grows larger.

      • Bah... pure dystopian FUD. By many academics' definitions, a government is simply an entity that has a monopoly on the legal use physical force. Capital punishment, detention and confinement, etc. Every govenment has this in common and sometimes that's all they have in common. Just because some institution is powerful doesn't mean "it's one in the same as the government".
    • Re:Censorship... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Bosh.

      Governments are not the only entities capable of censorship. Anybody who has control over any communication medium can exercise censorship.

    • Re:Censorship... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:44PM (#11838432)

      Only governments censor. This would be anti-competitive. Semantics, yes, but an important distiction nonetheless.

      You are incorrect. First anyone can censor, not just governments. Second, these corporations are given special legal protections by acting on behalf of the government as "common carriers" of communication, and as such are required to maintain impartiality in order to retain that status. An ISP is immune from prosecution for carrying child porn, only so long as it impartially transmits data, regardless of what it is, and does not attempt to police the content of its network. Whichever ISP this is just opened themselves up to prosecution for child porn, copyright infringement, libel, false advertising, etc., etc.

    • I think you ment only government censorship is forbiden by the 1st amendment.
  • Stop whining Vonage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:30PM (#11838233) Homepage Journal
    and get creative about masking your traffic. Sheesh.
    • by miu ( 626917 )
      and get creative about masking your traffic. Sheesh.

      I may have missed the sarcasm of that post, but...

      That is a battle that Vonage cannot win, the ISP is the ultimate "man in the middle" of security literature. Suppose Vonage switched to SRV records - ISP looks for SRV requests for SIP services and redirects or fails them, or they could block RTP streams themselves (even encrypted ones) with characteristics other than those of the ISP, since the ISP is guaranteed to be privy to all communications they

  • by ShadyG ( 197269 ) <bgraymusic@ g m a i l.com> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:31PM (#11838247) Homepage
    Though Citron would not identify the ISP that Vonage is claiming to have blocked its VoIP service...

    Unless that ISP is named "Congress" or someone to whom Congress has delegated a monopoly position, I don't see the connection to Free Speech.
    • Unless that ISP is named "Congress" or someone to whom Congress has delegated a monopoly position, I don't see the connection to Free Speech.

      Free speech has limitations in the form of a number of laws. Certain organizations are granted exceptions to laws restricting free speech by being granted "common carrier" status. These companies do not have to worry about prosecution for transmitting or publishing child porn, copyrighted works, or libelous materials. In order to maintain their status as common car

    • if it's a cable internet provider, then it most likely is a government delegated monopoly...
  • Congress isn't happy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moofdaddy ( 570503 ) * on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:31PM (#11838252) Homepage
    I work in DC as a lobbyist for the VOIP industry and let me tell you that this is not somethign we are sitting idly by and letting go unnoticed. I have been making a lot of calls today to various senators and congress trying to get their support and it has not been too difficult at all. Many were outraged at the idea and asked what our recomendation was on what to do. At the moment we are drafting a bill and a number of senators (Biden, Lehey, Kennedy) have expressed interest in introducing it.

    The bottom line is that the telecoms have a strangle hold and they are not willing to let go but they have over stepped their boundries this time. Expect to see hearings announced soon.
    • Make sure you pick up some Senators on the other side of the aisle before the bill goes to the floor. Always better to have a bipartisan group on board from the start, rather than letting the bill get stuck in a political quagmire.

    • what you are saying is that your lobbying group is writing a bill, you just have to get some actual politicians to introduce it...

      On the one hand I am glad you're getting the ball rolling.

      On the other I'm saddened to think how many laws get drafted this way...
    • That's nice in this case, but let's talk about a different scenario. Say I'm an ISP in rural Iowa that has roughly 15 customers because I'm small, and again in rural Iowa. Now let's say that you only had a single T1 or a fractional you were working with. Then imagine all 15 of your clients making VOIP calls at once. Your bandwidth would drop to nothing, and the clients would complain. Your only choice would be blocking vonage's ports so your clients can still "surf the net" at decent speeds. It's no di
      • A, what? VoIP uses veddy veddy little bandwidth; it's quite doable over dialup, let alone broadband. The main concern is latency and jitter, not bandwidth.

        A T1 should be able to support, well, at bare minimum, the 24 voice channels it really is. And VoIP takes less bandwidth than the 64 Kb/s those channels are using.

      • That would add up to about 120kbps, far less than even a quarter of a t1.

        voip is not a bandwidth hog by any means, in the space of ONE user listening to a 128kbps streaming mp3 station you can cram 15 calls.

    • At the moment we are drafting a bill and a number of senators (Biden, Lehey, Kennedy) have expressed interest in introducing it.

      It is disconcerting to hear "straight from the horse's mouth" that a lobbyist is writing a bill that will be introduced by a senator. One more example of how far the U.S. has gotten from a government that represents the people.

      Even though most people on /. will be glad to hear that something will be done to support VOIP, we can be reasonably sure that any bill you draft will

    • My isp, comcast, specifically, for the entry level cable modem account, PROHIBITS in the AUP the use of servers for the end user.
      (with comcast pro, this can be waved)

      Do you not consider the hardware reciving input when a voip customer recieves a call on the end users machine to not be within the definition of a server? or do you think that this portion of an AUP is illegal, and therefore should be ignored? ala civil disobedience- or a third possibility I haven't considered.

      I'd like to know- comcast reser
  • Of course, his bonuses might be "censored".
  • by rkischuk ( 463111 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:31PM (#11838258)
    ...just anti-competitive business practices by entrenched, government-sponsored monopolies. Still bad - but I guess "censorship" elicits the stronger, knee-jerk reacion.
  • At what level? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:32PM (#11838267) Homepage
    Blocking at what level?

    Is it restricting free speech if a company blocks VoIP outside of their network?

    Is it restricting if one ISP decides to block it for all of their customers?

    In the first situation, it's not really any different than a company policy forbidding personal phone calls on company time.

    In the second situation, switch ISPs to someone mroe reasonable.

    I think before we can go around saying that blocking VoIP is denying free speech, we should look at each situation individually.

    And of course, when possible, vote with dollars.
    • I think before we can go around saying that blocking VoIP is denying free speech, we should look at each situation individually.

      Here's the way I see it -- if I buy bandwidth from you and you want to act as a common-carrier, what I do with the bandwidth is none of your business.

      If I have a VPN connection and you can't see what's going on because it's encrypted you won't have the opportunity to block VoIP. So does the fact that I've kept it private change the legal status of it?

      Now, some clever wing-nut w

    • Your analogies are wrong.

      Companies have the right to forbide personal phone calls of THEIR EMPLOYEES. I do not work for my ISP, they would NOT have the right to do this. A better analogy would be a University allowing charging students for phone service but forbidding them from calling other universities.

  • My company uses vonage... anyone else notice their service went out at around 3:00 EST? www.vonage.com went down, too.
  • by Jaguar777 ( 189036 ) * on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:32PM (#11838270) Journal
    The engineers, Citron said, "could talk to the [customer's] box, but the box couldn't talk to [Vonage's] server, and it only couldn't talk SIP. We thought, Ah! There must be something going on here. So my guys just changed the SIP ports to something different, and 'schwing!' The service worked just fine."

    This has to be the first time a CEO has used the word 'schwing!' in an official interview.
  • The FCC? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by funny-jack ( 741994 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:32PM (#11838275) Homepage
    and as such, should be protected by the courts, the FCC, or by new telecom regulation that ensures free and open access over the Internet.

    Wait, so do is VOIP regulation a good thing, or is it a bad thing? [slashdot.org]

    I'm confused.
  • This is funny.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by x.Draino.x ( 693782 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:33PM (#11838283)
    So Mr. Citron wants VoIP to not be regulated as a voice service, but as a data service. But says that blocking his data service is censorship of free speech? So if my ISP blocks me from accessing IRC, is that censorship of free speech? They are both data services right? Make you your mind Mr. Citron! ( I should note that I am a Vonage user, and dislike the blocking, but I do find this comical. )
  • Common Carrier? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CarrionBird ( 589738 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:33PM (#11838302) Journal
    AFIAK ISPs lay claim to "common carrier" status, so they aren't responsible for the content they carry.

    Doesn't such selective conetnt filtering make them lose that status? Sounds like bad mojo for them.

  • Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joke-boy ( 744718 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:34PM (#11838306) Homepage
    If I understand the issue, certain ISPs are blocking the ports used by VOIP apps for whatever reason (bandwidth, probably). Assume for the moment that the VOIP complaint is valid. The logical next step would be for trojan writers to say that blocking ports that their trojans use is *also* censorship.

    ISPs shouldn't be required to support VOIP, any more than they're required to support email, FTP, or any other service. An ISP should be free to choose the services that it wishes to support, and a customer can then choose an ISP that offers the services that he desires. If VOIP is a good thing, then customers will punish ISPs that don't support it. If it's bad, then VOIP will die (as is natural in a competitive marketplace). The VOIP cry of censorship is just an attempt to get legislative backing for a business model.

    • Except that trojans are often illegal, and you're not paying for them. You are, however, paying for your VoIP service.
    • Re:Nonsense (Score:3, Insightful)

      ISPs shouldn't be required to support VOIP, any more than they're required to support email, FTP, or any other service. An ISP should be free to choose the services that it wishes to support, and a customer can then choose an ISP that offers the services that he desires.

      I agree completely. However, if an ISP chooses not to allow certain protocols to operate over the network, then I think they should be prevented from using the word "Internet" in their advertising. I think that's reasonable: if you're not

    • You missed the most important point.

      The ISP did NOT tell their CUSTOMERS they were blocking VOIP.

      You can't offer a general service, then go out of your way to not offer a specific service that is customarillly offered with it unless you TELL YOUR CUSTOMER that you are not offering the specific service.

      The ISP committed fraud against their customers - they claimed to offer full ISP service but in truth were only offering a limited ISP service.

    • The problem is that in *many* areas broadband is NOT a competitive marketplace yet. You have large monopolies (cable, phone) that have a strangle-hold on broadband.

      This isn't "I don't like Foo's prices, I'll go up the street."
  • freedom talk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:34PM (#11838312) Homepage Journal
    I asked around some VoIP execs I know, and it seems like only Vonage is being blocked this way - though their packets are exactly the same as Vonage's (except for the to/from bits). I don't know about "censorship", but it's clearly unfair competition from telcos seeking to offer competing VoIP.
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:36PM (#11838342)
    According to Vonage Holdings Corp. CEO Jeffrey Citron, intentional blocking of Voice over IP traffic is more than just a competitive dirty trick -- it's an act of censorship against free speech.

    No, it's a commercial entity telling you how you can use their network. Don't like it? Give your money to someone who will allow it.

    Port blocking of VoIP traffic, he opined, is a step down a slippery slope that could lead to network owners blocking content or Web sites they disagreed with.

    As much as I disagree with ISPs blocking any sort of traffic they do have every right to do so as you are using their network and unfortunately for most people you are *usually* under no contract of service w/the ISP that says they cannot stop you from doing whatever it is you want.

    Content providers already effectively block content they don't want you to see. There have been reports of ISPs blocking traffic on ports 6881 to 6889 and trackers requiring you to use different ports (see http://tmnsp.net as they require you to use alternate ports because of this). Comcast (the largest consumer broadband ISP) doesn't offer Usenet access except through a third party. Other ISPs don't offer ALL Usenet groups - they are keeping you from some content!

    "The FCC could come out and institute the largest possible fine they could, with the sternest of statements saying, 'this will not be tolerated,' " Citron said. "That might send a strong enough message."

    Or the large conglomerate providers, who already have the FCC in their pockets, could just pay the FCC off and tell them to ignore the problem. I don't see this solving anything.

    Personally, I think Vonage should make their software impossible to trace. Yeah it could make the quality/speed take a hit but it would protect them. They can't ban ALL traffic or no one would use the service. Pipe the shit over 443 and be done w/it.

    "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.

    The implications are too far reaching. I wouldn't be able to block spammers and hackers from hitting my machine because Vonage can't sell their VoIP service?

    "What are people using broadband to do? Communicate," Citron said. "They [network operators who block VoIP] are restricting your ability to communicate with another person. And that's censorship."

    People are using broadband to download porn, POP email from their ISP, and CNN.com from the web. As long as they can do that people will be happy. Find and partner with ISPs that will allow your traffic and point possible (and current) users in that direction but certainly don't believe it will stop an ISP like Comcast from blocking your ports. They have millions of subscribers who are clueless (just like Comcast wants them). If you think that anything less than a good percentage of Comcast would make them change their ways, you've got another thing coming.

    Welcome to the future of conglomerate communication control!
    • Since Comcast is running a *government-granted* monopoly in my town, it is censorship. Same goes for Verizon.
    • You would have a point EXCEPT:

      1) ISP's all advertise them self as full internet access.

      2) The ISP did NOT inform the customer they were blocking VoIP.

      The problem is actually FRAUD committed byt he ISP, they promissed a service and did not fulfill their promise. But I do agree this is not a "censorship" issue

  • ISPs already block other ports, such as ftp and web servers to prevent users from attracting more bandwidth to their network. Is this any different? The act of port blocking isn't any different, so I wonder if the content going over the port (in this case, voip) would make a difference in court.
  • by ylikone ( 589264 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:41PM (#11838399) Homepage
    I was thinking about cancelling my Bell telephone land line and just using my cable internet and vonage. I only have the options of bell sympatico ultra-high speed and rogers cable internet... if both of these services were to block voip ports then I would be left with no phone at all. We really need more high-speed broadband providers in this area (southern ontario, canada) if I will make the switch to vonage. Sure there are a lot of standard DSL choices, but I find them to be too slow for my needs.

    Also, just realized vonage doesn't support calling 911 in canada yet! WTF is up with that? I have kids and it is important to have them be able to pick up the phone and just dial 911 (as they have been taught at school, the media, etc...). Yet another factor to consider before I make the switch.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday March 03, 2005 @05:42PM (#11838404)
    No need to read all the comments. Just realize that in any article relating to censorship, you'll have three kinds of posts:

    1) Vocabulary pedants reminding you that only governments can censor and that ____ isn't government censorship.

    2) Replies to vocabulary pedants claiming that any sufficiently powerful and/or monopolistic entity hindering communications isn't functionally different than government censorship.

    3) People suggesting that Linux be deployed as a remedy.

    • You forgot:

      4) self-aggrandizing karma whores submit meta-commentary on the discussion itself, providing little of substance to the debate at hand.

      Wait, would that make my post:

      5) ... meta-meta-commentary ... ?

      Why do I feel like the Tortoise/Achilles all of the sudden ;)
  • I, Cringely (Score:2, Informative)

    by hiero ( 75335 )
    VoIP packet blocking/tagging is the subject of Cringely's latest column [pbs.org] .
  • Bubble Packets, IPv6 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by shapr ( 723522 )
    First of all, bubble packets [microsoft.com] let you get around blocked incoming ports.
    Second of all, how is this different from disallowing any incoming or outgoing connections?

    Some ISPs don't allow any incoming connections, some don't allow port 25 outgoing.
    Blocking port 25 outgoing would be easy to fix, only block it for microsoft mailer agents. (try this on your spam filter).

    Why don't ISPs upgrade to IPv6 so users have the most useful technology available to them?
    ISPs don't upgrade to IPv6 because they maximize pr
  • This is something I've worried could happen for a long time.

    With my current Internet connection, I can go anywhere. I can connect to Slashdot on port 80. I can ssh into my server. I can view Microsoft's webpage. I can view Red Hat's page. In short, I can pretty much connect to anything on the Internet I want.

    What's to stop ISPs from restricting this? I don't think it's going to happen, but I'm not so confident that it will never happen. I believe some markets, such as web access on cell phones, already do
  • Not Content Based (Score:2, Insightful)

    by denbesten ( 63853 )
    Censorship is blocking somthing based on its content. Blocking calls that contained foul language would be censorship. Blocking ALL voip calls is not censorship.

    It may be anti-competitive behavior, it may put their common-carrier status at risk and it sounds like improper behavior, but it is not censorship.
  • Modify the ATA's to start at port 1 and go to port 1024 (or higher) when connecting to Vonages' servers. They will need to modify their server software to listen for incoming connections on whatever port range (excluding 80 and whatever other specific ports they need for things).

    Lets see the ISP's block ports 1 through 1024!

    Forget all the fancy DNS routing crap I've seen in here. This sounds (at least on the surface) much more simple..

    Of course, right here I could be showing how little I know about TCP

  • If industry groups are allowed to determine what constitutes acceptable use of Internet traffic, its not just IP blocking for phone users that's at stake. Hell, I'm sure the RIAA would love to just do away with music on the net altogether. (Not to mention the MPAA). Bible thumpers would love to put an end to porn. And old ink&paper publishers would love to get rid of the whole kit & kaboodle.

    The point is that preventing certain communications because of corporate agendas or industry expedience
  • IP as in Internet Protocol or IP as in Intellectual Property. I tell ya kids... someday we're going to TLA ourselves into a language that means nothing and says multiple things all at once. I'm getting old.
  • Who is doing the port blocking? Spill the beans, already!
  • by AndyMan! ( 31066 ) <chicagoandyNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 03, 2005 @06:57PM (#11839222)
    ZDNET: FAA fines telco for blocking VOIP.

    North Carolina telecommunications company accused of deliberately blocking Internet phone traffic has reached a deal with federal regulators to halt the controversial practice.


    Telco agrees to stop blocking VoIP calls [zdnet.com]
  • by EvilStein ( 414640 ) <spam@nosPAm.pbp.net> on Friday March 04, 2005 @01:40AM (#11841828)
    The article can be found here [siliconvalley.com]

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva

Working...