There’s an interesting tussle going on between Comcast and the FCC over VoIP. The FCC sent Comcast a letter expressing concern over the impact of Comcast’s network management techniques on competing VoIP services. In earlier statements, Comcast readily admitted that their new network management techniques could adversely affect VoIP services that ride over their broadband network. The FCC cried foul and basically said that’s a slippery slope that could easily lead to anti-competitive behavior, especially since such network management practices would not affect Comcast’s voice service, Comcast Digital Voice (CDV), which is also an IP powered voice service.
In its response to the FCC, Comcast declares that CDV is not comparable to VoIP services like Vonage, and therefore does not apply to their network management practices. “CDV, like Vonage or Skype, is an IP-enabled voice service (i.e., it uses Voice-over-Internet-Protocol to deliver the service). However, unlike Vonage, Skype, or several other VoIP services, CDV is not an application that is used “over-the-top” of a high-speed Internet access service purchased by a consumer. Significantly, CDV customers do not need to subscribe to Comcast HSI service, and Comcast does not route those CDV customers’ traffic over the public Internet. Comcast argues that their voice service is more comparable to traditional voice services offered by competing telephone companies and in fact, does not ‘ride’ their broadband service like a Vonage service does,” says Comcast in their response letter.
What’s somewhat ironic in Comcast’s argument is their reference to CDV as comparable to the “dominant local Bell telephone” voice services – at least to a point. Don’t call it a telecommunications service though. They argue that CDV is still “an ‘interconnected VoIP service’ as that term is defined in the Commission’s rules, and, as we have explained in other proceedings where these questions are relevant, CDV is properly classified as an information service.” The last point is very important, because should the commission say that CDV is a telecommunications service, it opens Comcast up to a variety of regulatory and financial obligations that it wants to avoid.
Give Comcast some credit. They’re arguing that their phone service is comparable to telecommunications services, but it’s really not a telecommunications service. They’re also arguing that their voice service is a VoIP service, but their own unique brand of VoIP service, so don’t really call it VoIP either. What do you call it? Kudos to them, because for the time being, their argument appears to be winning.
What’s your opinion? Is CDV a telecommunications or information service? Share your view by using the comments tool below.