Cable Execs Say They're Not Blocking Outside VoIP - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Cable Execs Say They're Not Blocking Outside VoIP

Would cable companies block independent Internet services like Voice over IP from their broadband offerings? Not a chance, according to some top execs who spoke at the National Cable & Telecommunications Show Sunday.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Would cable companies block independent Internet services like Voice over IP from their broadband offerings? Not a chance, according to some top execs who spoke at the National Cable & Telecommunications Show here Sunday.

Those sentiments were echoed later in the day at a panel discussing government issues, where a chief legal staffer on the House Energy & Commerce committee said that members of that committee are "very concerned" about incidents like the recent port-blocking case involving Vonage and Madison River Communications, and that upcoming telecom reform legislation might include specific wording prohibiting the practice.

According to Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who is now chairman and the largest shareholder of Charter Communications, and Thomas Rutledge, chief operating officer of Cablevision, their companies shouldn't have to worry about violating any such law. Rutledge dismissed the idea of selectively blocking services out of hand, even though players like Vonage might compete with Cablevision's own VoIP offering.

"If you look at our high-speed network, Yahoo's on it, Google's on it, AOL's on it and voice is on it," Rutledge said in an interview after Sunday's keynote panel discussion. "Our customers expect to access to the sites our network enables them to have, and the applications that they're able to reach. For us to do anything otherwise would be against our economic interest."

Kyle McSlarrow, the newly minted president and CEO of the NCTA, said cable-company CEOs he has talked to since he's been on the job are "absolutely" against selective blocking of Internet services or applications.

"We believe we [the cable industry] drive enormous value in our relationship with customers from high-speed Internet service," McSlarrow said. Much of that value, he said, is derived by allowing users to "go anywhere they want, to do anything they want."

While Allen did say that cable providers "reserve the right" to negotiate the passage of potentially harmful traffic, he said he "hasn't heard anything" about Charter blocking independent VoIP service providers, and said such actions could draw the wrath of regulators and lawmakers.

"I think if you got into a situation where providers were blocking the usage of different kinds of broadband services, that would definitely raise issues that could be very controversial," Allen said.

Just in case the cable magnates change their minds, Congress may be ready to counter with actual law prohibiting blocking or even squeezing of independent services and applications by service providers. According to Howard Waltzman, chief counsel on telecommunications for the House Energy & Commerce committee, "a lot of [committee] members believe that consumers should have the right to access whatever Web sites or services they want." Blocking or even degradation of independent services, Waltzman said, "just should be absolutely prohibited."

When asked if there was a sense of urgency on the committee to get legislation passed ensuring the ideas of "net neutrality," Waltzman said there was.

"I think there is uncertainty, especially with new services put on the market every day," Waltzman said. Though the trend in the current administration is toward less regulation of telecom, Waltzman said "we don't want things like that [blocking] to be permitted." There should be "very clear legislation" to prevent it, he said.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
This new report from InformationWeek explores what we've learned over the past year, critical trends around ITOps and SecOps, and where leaders are focusing their time and efforts to support a growing digital economy. Download it today!
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

IT Leadership: 10 Ways to Unleash Enterprise Innovation
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  6/8/2021
Preparing for the Upcoming Quantum Computing Revolution
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  6/3/2021
How SolarWinds Changed Cybersecurity Leadership's Priorities
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/26/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll