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FCC Fines Company for Blocking Access to VoIP 294

peg0cjs writes "According to PCPro, the FCC has handed out a $15,000 fine to Madison River Communications Corp for blocking access to VoIP calls. The action is seen as a warning to other telcos not to prevent the growth of VoIP over their networks. The complaint was made to the FCC by two companies Vonage Holdings and Nuvio, which specialise in VoIP services. It appears that Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron was willing to act on his earlier tirade about VoIP blocking." From the article: "The action is seen as a warning to other telcos not to prevent the growth of VoIP over their networks. Many of these companies see VoIP as a threat to their landline revenues as calls made over the internet can be made to anywhere in the world for the price of a local call."
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FCC Fines Company for Blocking Access to VoIP

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  • by tekiegreg ( 674773 ) * <tekieg1-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Friday March 04, 2005 @02:54PM (#11846276) Homepage Journal
    Is something like me getting a $10 parking ticket, annoying but hardly worth acting on beyond mailing the puppy in...though I suppose the command to change policy as such will have an effect...
  • by kidgenius ( 704962 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @02:55PM (#11846294)
    Good to see the FCC actually doing something that gives consumers choice. Now only if we could get them to drop the stupid broadcast flag.
  • Pocket change (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kimos ( 859729 ) <kimos.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 04, 2005 @02:56PM (#11846297) Homepage
    IANAL, but I assume the fine goes way up from there, right? If it cuts into the telco's bottom line so much $15,000 isn't a big price to pay to block it.
  • by Quasar1999 ( 520073 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @02:56PM (#11846298) Journal
    True, it's peanuts... but no one said it would stay at that low a fine... do it again, and we'll up the fine... just like with a kid, slap the wrists, then the ass, then nail them over the head with a frying pan... As a side note, I'm not a parent, so take my example with a grain of salt
  • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aesiamun ( 862627 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @02:57PM (#11846324) Homepage Journal

    I am limited in my bandwidth from my provider. I can do whatever I want with that bandwidth, providing it's within the law and the agreement that I signed when I became a customer of my ISP.

    If I want high quality lower compressed telephone calls, and I'm not breaking any agreements, then i should be able to do that.

    I pay for this bandwidth, it's better that I make a call and use my bandwidth than become one of the many who are spending bandwidth trading kiddie porn.
  • by Jailbrekr ( 73837 ) <jailbrekr@digitaladdiction.net> on Friday March 04, 2005 @02:59PM (#11846345) Homepage
    The smart ones throttle back the quality of the connection. Thanks to the bursty nature of the internet, they can get away with making the quality total shit for 3rd party VoIP providers, while allcocating the necessary bandwidth and priority to their own VoIP services.

  • by slipnslidemaster ( 516759 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:00PM (#11846362)

    First off, I'm happy that they did this to send a warning. I want innovation and I want competition to make things better.

    Having said that, I find it deplorable that we fine a paltry $15,000 for stopping innovation yet fine broadcasters $500,000 per incident for "violations" that should be free speech.

    I think we should amend the Constitution to say, "By the Corporations, for the Corporations".
  • by VE3ECM ( 818278 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:02PM (#11846374)
    I don't know about you, but I've never heard of 'Madison River Communications Corp'...
    Sounds like a small fish in the pond. A 15K fine is definitely going to make them pay attention.

    And it's going to make the big players sit up and take notice.

    Think of this more as a "warning shot across the bow" than a slap on the wrist.

  • A start... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ksilebo ( 134470 ) * <russ@ksil[ ].net ['ebo' in gap]> on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:02PM (#11846379) Homepage Journal
    Its a move in the right direction, but to the bigger telcos, $15,000 isn't that big of a hit. Especially when doing something blatantly unethical.
  • Dupe? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by charlie763 ( 529636 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:03PM (#11846381) Homepage
    "The action is seen as a warning to other telcos not to prevent the growth of VoIP over their networks" Does this count as a dupe or will it need to read that quote a third time?
  • by Kimos ( 859729 ) <kimos.slashdotNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:03PM (#11846382) Homepage
    I don't agree. It's the intent that's important. They weren't helping anyone but themselves. You pay the telco to provide you with service.

    If they were given the right to block it, you can just switch to another provider right? Well what happens when that provider blocks you out? Eventually you'd get locked out. After that they'd offer to open that port for you if you requested it, for a price....
  • FCC is very soft! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:03PM (#11846385)
    The FCC should fine this company US$15,000 per blocked call and the fine should attract interest at current rates. If this company has pockets as deep as those of M$, I suggest going further and holding the executives to account. I hope I am not being too "right wing" or extremist.
  • That's not a fine. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mhollis ( 727905 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:03PM (#11846391) Journal

    $15,000 is hardly a significant threat to a telco, it's more like a "warning ticket" given to a speeder that the cop is good buddies with.

    When I think of the fines imposed on Howard Stern, it convinces me that they're not all that serious about limiting challenges to VOIP.

  • Re:Good (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wcb4 ( 75520 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:15PM (#11846530)
    I can do whatever I want with that bandwidth

    Where do you live? Everyone I know has a terms of service agreement that restricts what they can do with "their" bandwidth (an in fact, my ISP blocks port 80)

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:18PM (#11846551) Homepage
    They are ALREADY charing for that ports useage. It is part of there standard service which advertised "full interenet access".

    The FCC basically claims that Full Interenet access has been deteremined to include VoIP, so Madison was committing fraud.

  • by baudilus ( 665036 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:21PM (#11846588)
    it's their bandwidth Vonage isn't paying for it

    But you, the consumer, are paying for that bandwidth. As a customer of Vonage, I can tell you that it's not even that much - 90kbps is the HIGHEST quality setting. If I'm paying the cable / telephone / ISP company for a certain amount of bandwidth, I should be able to use that bandwidth as I see fit, as long as it conforms with the customer agreement. As yet, I have not seen an agreement that says "I will not use VoIP services on this connection."

    You work for a phone company, I bet. or maybe a cable company...
  • by Sc00ter ( 99550 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:21PM (#11846590) Homepage
    Exactly, this wasn't put in place for security reasons (M1/ATTBI blocking port 80 during the code red outbreak). Or for policy reasons for service (Verizon blocking port 25 on consumer DSL).

    This was done specifically to block competition.

  • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:28PM (#11846656)
    I think what the FCC is trying to say is the only the FCC has the right to block free speech.
  • by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:29PM (#11846664)

    Seriously, can my girlfriend complain to the FCC about this?

    Maybe she should talk to verizon first. They probably have proxies set up for outbound traffic.

  • Re:Eh? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:41PM (#11846792)
    VoIP providers don't receive their bandwidth for free. The bandwidth used for the calls isn't theirs, it's mine; I've paid for it already with my broadband subscription fee.
  • by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:42PM (#11846812)
    I work for a small cable provider. We also offer cablemodem service and phone service, all over the coax network. We make more money *per-customer* on the phone service than anything else.

    Vonage isn't available in our area yet, but when it comes, our phone service is absolutely fucked. Vonage is what, $25/month for unlimited calls? We charge that much for 500 minutes of calls per month. And, of course, long distance is extra.

    But you know what? I don't care. Vonage and it's ilk are GOOD THINGS. There's no reason that all communications systems shouldn't move to IP-based networks. Yeah, it's going to be the end of the "small" service providers, but so what? They're living on borrowed time anyway.

    I'm just waiting for high-speed wireless internet to become ubiquitous. Once everyone can snag a couple of megabits out of the air no matter where they are, even the cell phone companies are going to be screwed. Unless, of course, they become wireless internet providers. Which is what they should do, of course.
  • by Gadgetfreak ( 97865 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:52PM (#11846954)
    Instead of embracing the new technology, adopting it, and even selling/profiting from it... they decide to stifle it and bludgeon it with a stick in the hopes that it will die and people won't talk about it anymore.

    They need to learn to appropriately respond to what the market wants, not control what they can get.

  • by arkhan_jg ( 618674 ) on Friday March 04, 2005 @03:56PM (#11847022)
    I'll ignore the legal liability of the VoIP network for calls over their network (I've no idea whether they do in fact have common carrier status, or something like it, and I'm certainly not qualified to comment on that)

    My understanding of the common carrier status of the provider though, is that they do not look at what they transport, so cannot be held liable for the contents. So if they're port blocking a competing service, that means they're intefering, and thus ignoring the very fact that makes them common carriers in the process.

    The customer is paying the provider for bandwidth. Who they connect to with it, even if it's a VoIP service, is none of the business of the common carrier by definition.

    They very likely weren't blocking VoIP with the agreement of the end customer (via service contact) as the customers were businesses. They were blocking it on their own initiative to preserve their landline business. That is anti-competitive, and if a provider under the purview of the FCC is breaking it's own common carrier status, then the FCC not only has the right to act, it has the duty to do so.

    If the FCC didn't prevent this, then that allows providers to block whatever they want, without putting it in the service contract. Next up, you'd have the RIAA and the police to expect this provider to start port blocking P2P services, and scanning for child porn passing across their network, as they would no longer be common carriers.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus