The case builds

By Daniel Dern  |  Posted 2005-03-04 Print this article Print

."> Port-blocking by ISPs is a form of network interference. "Maintaining open networks is one of the fundamental premises of the Communications Act," Murray said. "This is the first time, I believe, that the FCC had received a well-documented case of port-blocking."
"We know they were specifically trying to block SIP traffic, because there were other ports open, like file-sharing ports," Murray said.
"So it wasnt something they were doing for network management purposes, like to restrict file-sharing technologies. At that point we decided to submit an FCC enforcement complaint." According to Vonage, "Last month, the Enforcement Bureau issued a Letter of Inquiry ("LOI") to Madison River Communication LLC initiating an investigation about allegations that Madison River was blocking ports used for VOIP applications, thereby affecting customers ability to use VOIP through one or more VOIP service providers." In addition to filing the complaint to the FCC, Vonage routed around the blocking, by using different ports—"a manual fix which takes a lot of time to do," Murray said. Richard Diamond, a spokesman at the FCC, said in a phone interview, "There were allegations that the company had been blocking ports, causing Vonage customers and possibly others to lose service. We investigated starting Feb. 11. The results—in very swift action three weeks later, we arrived at a Consent Degree—an agreement between the FCC and the telephone company —involving a voluntary contribution to the U.S. Treasury and agreeing to take initiate a compliance plan to make sure this doesnt happen in the future." According to the terms of the consent decree, Madison River commits that it will refrain from blocking VOIP traffic and ensure that such blocking will not recur. FCC Chairman Michael Powell said, "We saw a problem, and we acted swiftly to ensure that Internet voice service remains a viable option for consumers." Click here to read the Editorial Boards opinion that the FCC made the correct decision recently when it labeled the services of VOIP providers fundamentally interstate in nature. The speed of the FCC in the matter is notable in itself. "What matters is that this was important enough to the FCC to consider the case and expedite it," said Diamond. "We moved as quickly as we could to stop the practice because we think that Internet voice service is important. And if there are any other solid cases where this is happening, we want to know." "It was unfortunate that this illegal port blocking took place, but were thrilled that the FCC acted so quickly and so clearly to keep the Internet open," said Murray. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.


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