Vonage’s Citron Says VoIP Blocking Is ‘Censorship’
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.
“What is this [port blocking] really all about?” said Citron, who was in San Francisco Tuesday for the Reuters Technology Summit. “It’s really censorship in a way.”
[...] The advanced features of network analyzers, Citron said, already allow administrators to look not only at what types of packets are traversing their networks, but into the actual content of the packets. 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.
“What happens if [network operators] use technology to peer into your packets and read and see what you’re doing?” Citron asked. “If they have a particular view of the world, they could just stop any news article that purports to go against that view. If they’re [already] looking in the packets for SIP, or for instant messaging, where does the line end?”
Elsewhere in Advanced IP Pipelines, we have Can Vonage Avoid Getting Squeezed Out?
Forget about port blocking, the relatively simple method used to temporarily cut Vonage’s virtual lines. What’s coming next — or what may be already happening — is a bandwidth squeeze, where network administrators use shaping and prioritizing techniques to slow time-sensitive applications like VoIP to a crawl.
The techniques and equipment used can vary, but according to various networking sources the deed will go down like this: A network operator identifies traffic it doesn’t want on its network (which could be Vonage VoIP, or something similar, like online gaming or file-sharing), and assigns it a “low priority,” meaning it gets transmitted only after every other type of traffic goes through the Internet door.
Technically, that’s not “blocking” traffic, per se. But it is an effective — and harder to prove — way of ensuring that latency-sensitive traffic like VoIP has a good chance of failing to get to the other end on time. Even if such tactics are revealed, expect to hear telecom-company lawyers insist that the techniques were employed to ensure that bandwidth was reserved for the operator’s own resources, and for the traffic generated by its paying customers.