FCC Says Telco Must Allow VOIP Traffic

The ruling comes after Vonage customers complained that their ports were being blocked.

In response to a complaint by broadband communications company Vonage Holdings Corp., the U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced on Thursday its ruling that "Madison River shall not block ports used for VOIP applications or otherwise prevent customers from using VOIP applications."

Founded in April 1996, Madison River Communications, a wholly owned subsidiary of Madison River Telephone Company LLC, serves DSL and residential and business voice customers in the Midwestern, Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast areas of the United States, including local, long-distance and Internet services. The company is based in Mebane, N.C.

Vonage, a broadband communications company, is a major provider of VOIP (voice over IP) services.

"VOIP lets people have telephony-like conversations over the Internet, using regular analog ("POTS") phones or VOIP phones plus an adapter that plugs into their broadband, rather than a needing a headset that plugs into their computer," said Chris Murray, director of Government Affairs at Vonage.

While most of Vonages customers are residents, the company also has enterprise and SMB customers, as well as "white-label" resellers and partners such as Armstrong Cable, Earthlink, and LECs(Local Exchange Companies) and utilities.

"The speed the FCC acted with indicates the level of seriousness that the FCC is going to treat Internet gateways," Murray said in a telephone interview Friday.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about the state of California mounting a legal challenge to a recent FCC ruling that VOIP services sold by Vonage were exempt from state and local regulations and tariffs.

Earlier this year, Vonage received service complaints from customers, including one tech-savvy customer who realized his ports were being blocked, said Murray.

"We determined that probably 200 to 300 customers were being affected. We sent down one of our engineers along with a third-party engineer, to verify that port-blocking was indeed happening."

A "port" is an IP subaddress. IP has 36,000 ports; "well-known" port numbers are usually assigned to specific protocols and applications and vice versa, for example, e-mail, HTTP, Telnet, FTP, and protocols such as SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) used by VOIP.

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