Monopolistic Pressures?

by on January 4, 2006 · 32 comments

Ars Technica reports on the release of a full suite of open source VOIP software. This has some interesting policy implications. So far, regulators have been focused on getting large, commercial VOIP providers like Vonage to comply with the various tax and regulatory requirements. But as free VOIP solutions become ever more available and accessible, there won’t be anybody to tax and regulate. If I set up VOIP server in my basement, something I can probably do for a few hundred dollars, do I have to register with the FCC and my state regulatory agency as a telecom company? Or am I only required to comply with regulatory requirement if I connect to the PSTN?

Ars has a pretty consistently anti-corporate editorial stance, and I think their conclusion on the implications for net neutrality regulations gets the situation rather backwards:

The unwavering avarice of big telecom has also become an impediment, with at least one major ISP publicly asserting that it will not allow competing VoIP services to operate over its lines. In response to the blatantly anti-competitive sentiment of such ISPs, House Energy and Commerce Committe Chairman Joe Barton has proposed a network neutrality law that will prevent monopolistic pressure from devesting VoIP innovation. VoIP technology is increasingly important in our highly connected world, and the availability of open source VoIP solutions will help popularize the technology in less developed countries where organizations can’t afford the proprietary alternatives.

What the existence of open-source VOIP software means is that it’s going to be increasingly difficult for the Baby Bells to control its use. If it were just Vonage, the Baby Bells would simply need to figure out how to detect and block traffic for that one application. But if there are thousands of geeks tinkering with an free VOIP networking stack, there will be a proliferation of new VOIP applications that circumvent the Bells’ restrictions in different ways. Rather than fighting an arms race with a handful of easy-to-identify software companies, they’ll be fighting it with hundreds of geeks scattered around the world. It’s a battle they’re certain to lose. And that makes network neutrality legislation less, not more, necessary.

  • jack

    Blocking 1000 different types of VOIP apps is no harder than blocking 4, or 10, or 20. Adding a new filtering rule to block a particular type of packet is much easier than modifying a VOIP app to produce packets with a new signature and getting it out to consumers before the telco figures out how to block it.

    This only becomes more difficult if the VOIP packets are hidden in other traffic. VOIP over HTTP, for example, or, even better, VOIP hidden completely in HTTPS. But there are rather simple heuristics to eliminate even that, especially if you assume [decree] that your users can only use HTTP/FTP/SMTP/etc., and if you restrict HTTPS to whitelisted sites.

    Draconian? Absolutely. And it does become difficult for the Baby Bells to do any of this when there are competitors who offer non-draconian alternatives.

    But from a technical perspective, I just can’t believe that fighting this ‘arms race’ would be too much for them to do. Its much easier than you think, if they really wanted to.

  • jack

    Blocking 1000 different types of VOIP apps is no harder than blocking 4, or 10, or 20. Adding a new filtering rule to block a particular type of packet is much easier than modifying a VOIP app to produce packets with a new signature and getting it out to consumers before the telco figures out how to block it.

    This only becomes more difficult if the VOIP packets are hidden in other traffic. VOIP over HTTP, for example, or, even better, VOIP hidden completely in HTTPS. But there are rather simple heuristics to eliminate even that, especially if you assume [decree] that your users can only use HTTP/FTP/SMTP/etc., and if you restrict HTTPS to whitelisted sites.

    Draconian? Absolutely. And it does become difficult for the Baby Bells to do any of this when there are competitors who offer non-draconian alternatives.

    But from a technical perspective, I just can’t believe that fighting this ‘arms race’ would be too much for them to do. Its much easier than you think, if they really wanted to.

  • http://www.binarybits.org/ Tim

    This only becomes more difficult if the VOIP packets are hidden in other traffic. VOIP over HTTP, for example, or, even better, VOIP hidden completely in HTTPS. But there are rather simple heuristics to eliminate even that, especially if you assume [decree] that your users can only use HTTP/FTP/SMTP/etc., and if you restrict HTTPS to whitelisted sites.

    Draconian? Absolutely. And it does become difficult for the Baby Bells to do any of this when there are competitors who offer non-draconian alternatives.

    Well yeah, that’s the kicker. Obviously, if their top priority is to block VOIP traffic, they can do that by simply turning off peoples’ Internet connection. But the trick is to block VOIP traffic without unduly interfering with other Internet applications–otherwise they’ll just drive a lot of their customers into the waiting arms of cable.

    I think detecting cloaked VOIP is much harder than you’re imagining. At a minimum, you’d need to ban all encrypted protocols, which would render it useless to every businessman who uses VPN and every sysadmin who uses SSH. And do you really think the Baby Bells could keep an up-to-date list of every legitimate web site in the world that uses HTTPS?

    Could they make it a pain for customers to use VOIP? Probably. But not without breaking a lot of other applications that millions of their customers are likely to be using. That’s an idiotic business strategy, and it would almost certainly backfire on them.

  • http://www.binarybits.org/ Tim

    This only becomes more difficult if the VOIP packets are hidden in other traffic. VOIP over HTTP, for example, or, even better, VOIP hidden completely in HTTPS. But there are rather simple heuristics to eliminate even that, especially if you assume [decree] that your users can only use HTTP/FTP/SMTP/etc., and if you restrict HTTPS to whitelisted sites.

    Draconian? Absolutely. And it does become difficult for the Baby Bells to do any of this when there are competitors who offer non-draconian alternatives.

    Well yeah, that’s the kicker. Obviously, if their top priority is to block VOIP traffic, they can do that by simply turning off peoples’ Internet connection. But the trick is to block VOIP traffic without unduly interfering with other Internet applications–otherwise they’ll just drive a lot of their customers into the waiting arms of cable.

    I think detecting cloaked VOIP is much harder than you’re imagining. At a minimum, you’d need to ban all encrypted protocols, which would render it useless to every businessman who uses VPN and every sysadmin who uses SSH. And do you really think the Baby Bells could keep an up-to-date list of every legitimate web site in the world that uses HTTPS?

    Could they make it a pain for customers to use VOIP? Probably. But not without breaking a lot of other applications that millions of their customers are likely to be using. That’s an idiotic business strategy, and it would almost certainly backfire on them.

  • http://www.tramadolmedicine.com tramadol

    But the trick is to block VOIP traffic without unduly interfering with other Internet applications–otherwise they’ll just drive a lot of their customers into the waiting arms of cable.

  • http://www.tramadolmedicine.com tramadol

    But the trick is to block VOIP traffic without unduly interfering with other Internet applications–otherwise they’ll just drive a lot of their customers into the waiting arms of cable.

  • http://www.kdnceu.qvswtxgcm.com atgeckulf dhbi

    tcpeijvo hmjqgwvd odszcqvix ygdot mgdt ndmterklh mbwtzevh

  • http://www.kdnceu.qvswtxgcm.com atgeckulf dhbi

    tcpeijvo hmjqgwvd odszcqvix ygdot mgdt ndmterklh mbwtzevh

  • http://www.kdnceu.qvswtxgcm.com atgeckulf dhbi

    tcpeijvo hmjqgwvd odszcqvix ygdot mgdt ndmterklh mbwtzevh

  • http://www.kdnceu.qvswtxgcm.com atgeckulf dhbi

    tcpeijvo hmjqgwvd odszcqvix ygdot mgdt ndmterklh mbwtzevh

  • http://www.google.com yadziq dfwtsv

    yxqun tvcgkob rzxtwq sjfalknrt bejz fikud gbai http://www.wpzmraecg.mjqwix.com

  • http://www.google.com yadziq dfwtsv

    yxqun tvcgkob rzxtwq sjfalknrt bejz fikud gbai http://www.wpzmraecg.mjqwix.com

  • http://www.google.com yadziq dfwtsv

    yxqun tvcgkob rzxtwq sjfalknrt bejz fikud gbai http://www.wpzmraecg.mjqwix.com

  • http://www.google.com yadziq dfwtsv

    yxqun tvcgkob rzxtwq sjfalknrt bejz fikud gbai http://www.wpzmraecg.mjqwix.com

  • http://www.google.com yadziq dfwtsv

    yxqun tvcgkob rzxtwq sjfalknrt bejz fikud gbai http://www.wpzmraecg.mjqwix.com

  • http://www.google.com yadziq dfwtsv

    yxqun tvcgkob rzxtwq sjfalknrt bejz fikud gbai http://www.wpzmraecg.mjqwix.com

  • http://www.google.com yadziq dfwtsv

    yxqun tvcgkob rzxtwq sjfalknrt bejz fikud gbai http://www.wpzmraecg.mjqwix.com

  • http://www.google.com yadziq dfwtsv

    yxqun tvcgkob rzxtwq sjfalknrt bejz fikud gbai http://www.wpzmraecg.mjqwix.com

  • http://www.google.com iewpms rcykfolv

    shbdqfcu jwzotvyxl irfah rfuwlye syzltnx ylweo brwts [URL=http://www.myvl.vbqoem.com]zwpqjnatu vicrq[/URL]

  • http://www.google.com iewpms rcykfolv

    shbdqfcu jwzotvyxl irfah rfuwlye syzltnx ylweo brwts [URL=http://www.myvl.vbqoem.com]zwpqjnatu vicrq[/URL]

  • http://www.google.com ezln rdnlb

    kmxvs gxszadnb gycakjwdx edoa budjawi oylfqrk nxfbgheiw [URL]http://www.inwygvc.prylaiqo.com[/URL] jfmkibgu tijmyq

  • http://www.google.com ezln rdnlb

    kmxvs gxszadnb gycakjwdx edoa budjawi oylfqrk nxfbgheiw [URL]http://www.inwygvc.prylaiqo.com[/URL] jfmkibgu tijmyq

  • http://banking.phylogra.info banking

    Nice site. Thank you!!!

  • http://banking.phylogra.info banking

    Nice site. Thank you!!!

  • http://britney.infogami.com britney

    Very good site. Thanks.

  • http://britney.infogami.com britney

    Very good site. Thanks.

  • http://www.url4.net/2CA1DA Anonymous

    Good site. Thank you!

  • http://www.url4.net/2CA1DA Anonymous

    Good site. Thank you!

  • http://www.url4.net/2CA1DA Anonymous

    Good site. Thank you!

  • http://www.url4.net/2CA1DA Anonymous

    Good site. Thank you!

  • http://musik.infogami.com musik

    Cool site. Thanks:-)

  • http://musik.infogami.com musik

    Cool site. Thanks:-)

Previous post:

Next post: