Study: VoIP Quality Getting Worse. Can We Prioritize Now?

by on July 27, 2006 · 12 comments

Don’t look now, but your VoIP service may be getting worse. According to a report released this week by Brix Networks, an Internet monitoring firm, VoIP quality measurably declined in the past 18 months. Specifically, it found that 20 percent of VoIP calls had “unacceptable” quality, as opposed to 15 percent a year and a half ago. (The data was gathered from, a web site operated by Brix).

The chief tech offier of Brix, Kaydam Heydarat, says the decline is the result of VoIP having to compete for resources on an increasingly crowded web. If that sounds familar, it should–opponents of mandated net neutrality have long argued that congestion could hurt time-sensitive applications such as VoIP if network owners aren’t allowed to prioritize traffic. As Mr. Heydarat says: The network is ready for VoIP… But now that there are more services running over the same pipe, carriers need to differentiate packets and prioritize service.”

To be fair, many–perhaps most–supporters of neutrality regulation now support prioritization (though it may be hard to reconcile with rhetoric condemning a “two-tier” Internet). They draw the line as charging money for priority service. It’s nevertheless hard to imagine how such a free prioritization system would work. Certainly, providers transmitting signals for non-priority services would rightly complain about being paying the same amount for slower service. And who would decide what services would qualify for prioirity service? The government? Far better to allow markets–and prices–to decide such things, as they do almost everywhere else in the economy.

Still, the Brix study should help quash any arguments that prioritization is not needed at all. It is– the current first-come-first-served is no longer adequate. Despite the congestion, that message should come through loud and clear.

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