There’s an interesting tussle going on between . The FCC sent Comcast a letter expressing concern over the impact of . 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, (CDV), which is also an IP powered voice service.

In its response to the FCC, 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.

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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.

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4 thoughts on “Comcast Wants it Both Ways on VoIP

  1. …and cable companies like Comcast wonder why a majority of their own customer base hates dealing with them? This is not the first time Comcast has sought to “finesse” technological advancements to their own advantage (and our disadvantage).
    Look at the Over-the-Air digtial transition! Comcast is trying to hide behind this FCC mandate and make this appear to be the reason they’re abandoning their analog tier of channels (at subscribers’ expense).
    Let’s hope the FCC holds them accountable on voice services and analog services, alike!!

  2. voice is voice. i guess i’m not caught up in the emotional argument – seems to me if you are offering voice service to the home, its voice service. the rules should be the same for everyone. unfortunately the system allows a lot of games. priority one for fcc should be to set the definition so everyone plays by the same rules.

  3. This points up the mismatch between state and federal law, and the craziness that results from a technology-based definition of regulated services. State statutes (recall the Minnesota Vonage case) treat voice as voice without regard to technology. The Communications Act treats voice differently depending upon the technology used — the CA is premised upon the now invalid assumption that voice service cannot be provided over computer networks. That invalid assumption allows this sort of regulatory arbitrage. The FCC obviously is using net neutrality principles to force VOIP providers into a choice between staying unregulated but having poor quality of service and becoming regulated in order to ensure service quality. Ultimately, however, the only way to ensure net neutrality and to ensure pure competition is to separate ownership of the network from service provision. As with resale and UNEs on the PSTN, the network owner has every incentive to favor its own services.

  4. It can’t be both and niether at the same time. In my view what Comcast is providing is telecommunications. The transport method should have no relevance in the matter. If the service provides voice communications capabilty over distance, it is telecommunications which of course is the definition of telecommunications. The answer can be found on webster’s or Wiki, the FCC should look it up!

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