Friday, June 30, 2006

Living Large at the White House

I'm glad to hear that Bush is enjoying his time in the White House, but there is nothing that beats Iowa beef. At least they chose a decent Chardonnay: Clos Pegase. If you haven't tried Clos Pegase, get a bottle. If you have time, visit them in Calistoga.

Tag: Clos Pegase, Bush

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Net neutrality amendment dies/Telecommunications bill goes to Senate without provision sought by Web firms

In a sign of common sense, the Senate committee voting on the latest telecom legislation decided to shelf the net neutrality ammendment. Apparently they want more time to study the issue to make intelligent legislation. For now this means that the Internet remains as it should: unregulated.

Read the article at Net neutrality amendment dies/ Telecommunications bill goes to Senate without provision sought by Web firms

Tag: Net Neutrality, Senate

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

2007 Will Be the Year of VoIP Peering

What the courts give us the FCC taketh away. Last year 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 3% excise tax charged on long-distance calling to fund the Spanish-American War in 1898 was illegal. Finally last month the government finally gave up challenging the obsolete tax, but not before it had a new scheme up their sleeve. Last week the FCC announced that VoIP providers would have to start contributing to the Universal Service Fund (USF) and that wireless providers would have to contribute even more. The few cent break that customers thought that they would receive is actually turning into a tax increase. The catch to the tax is that it will only be charged on VoIP calls that terminate on the PSTN. All wireless calls will be subject to the tax increase.

This new tax is just the motivation that VoIP providers, especially broadband VoIP carriers, need to focus on keeping their calls totally IP. I had always been disappointed that Vonage, SunRocket, Packet8, and the other broadband VoIP providers never banded together to form peering relationships. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of peering, just like the Internet peering is where carriers of equal size agree to interconnect their networks to share traffic. Smaller service providers purchase capacity from larger VoIP transit providers that peer with carriers of equal size. The alternative is to interconnect with one of a handful of peering providers. I can see why the large VoIP transit providers never started peering because they make money from PSTN terminations. This new FCC ruling will be the catalyst necessary to push peering to the forefront of VoIP provider priorities. PSTN terminations are expensive anyway, and they add extra coding and decoding processes that introduce distortion into the signal. Delaying peering may drive customers to other VoIP carriers that can keep the cost low because most VoIP customers switched from traditional POTS to save money. This group is very conscious about any increases to their monthly phone bill.

Broadband VoIP providers are already concerned about their future as the cable companies and RBOC offer competitive VoIP services. The cable companies are already taking a serious look at VoIP peering to reduce the cost of carrying calls inside and outside their networks. They see the potential cost savings and quality benefits. RBOC will drag their feet on peering because they have Metcalf’s Law on their side. Broadband VoIP providers have the biggest motivation to implement peering to keep their customers’ phone bills small and costs low; thereby, reducing churn. Companies such as NeuStar, VeriSign, Xconnect, and InfiniRoute Networks will benefit selling peering and ENUM solutions to large and small VoIP providers. While last year was the year of SIP, look for 2007 to be the year of VoIP peering. It continues to amaze me at why many businesses wait for a government action to motivate them to a competitive response.

Tag: VoIP Peering, NeuStar, VeriSign, Xconnect, InfiniRoute

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Net Neutrality Bill Scheduled for Vote

Will wonders never cease? The Telecom Bill that was scheduled for a vote Friday is actually being debated tonight after Tom DeLay (R-TX) gives his farewell speech. Apparently Congress is ready for their summer recess. I was hoping that this legislation would be postponed until the fall session to give time for a full debate and education on the issue, but I guess that Members of Congress want to appear that they are doing something.

One of the amendments being proposed to the Telecom legislation by Rep. Lemar Smith (R-TX) will give the FCC main responsibility for resolving net neutrality disputes. Another amendment proposed by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has a bit more teeth to it defining net neutrality. This situation is a classic case of a red herring with the pols passing some toothless legislation just to satisfy a noisy minority.

The Washington Post published an editorial today written by Larry Lessig and Bob McChesney to sway the opinion of the House before the vote. I generally respect what Larry has to say but this editorial was written as if the telcos and cablecos were the new USSR. They compared AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast to Tony Soprano. Their alarmist point of view is totally out-of-line since these companies have not violated any principles of net neutrality. They have only proposed that Internet service providers can pay extra to guarantee a consistent user experience. Net Neutrality is a ghost chasing a red herring.

Let’s hope that common sense prevails and our elected officials listen to the arguments of the engineers from the telephone and cable industry; otherwise, the Internet that Larry and Bob warn about as any packet regardless of type fights its way through the Internet like autos through Roman streets. Their argument is an oxymoron because they want the government to regulate the Internet to maintain its openness based on light-handed regulation.

There is too much misinformation being propagated by organizations like and the American Library Association. Let’s hope that Congress does the right thing and just pass some weak amendments like that of Lemar Smith so they can tell these groups that they did something about Net Neutrality.

Tag: Net Neutrality

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Vonage's Stock Price Isn't the Only Thing That Has Problems

Mid February I attempted to cancel my Vonage service because my LNP request to Broadvoice was complete. I was convinced by the Vonage customer service representative to suspend my account instead of terminating it. She assured me that suspending it would not cost me any money. At the time it sounded like a great idea because of all of the problems that I was having with Broadvoice. So I agreed to put my account in suspension should I decide that Broadvoice’s service was just too intolerable. I promptly put my ATA into its box and stored it in the basement.

Three months go by before I start seeing charges to my credit card from Vonage. I log into their web portal and notice charges for calls made on their network. How could this be since my ATA was disconnected? I decided to call Vonage to figure it all out. After waiting 2 hours on the phone and 2 disconnected calls, I finally reached an account representative. The representative stated that the charges were valid because their computers said that I made the calls. I countered with my assertion that my ATA was packed away in the basement and my router logs showed no activity to their application servers. Since she would not escalate my case to the next level, I terminated the call.

I wonder how many other previous Vonage customers have had their credit cards charged for calls they did not place after terminating their service. The problem is probably due to the fact that I ported my number from them to another service provider. Occasionally they are receiving a CDR from the CLEC that still thinks my number is a Vonage number and bills my account. The amounts are small but add up to about $60 per year which is enough for me to want to see it stopped.

The other thing to watch out for is their account suspension service. After 90 days, Vonage began charging me $4.99 for basic service plus additional calls and taxes. The customer service representative did not notify me of that fact or I would have just cancelled the service.

If anyone else has experienced problems with Vonage’s billing, comment to this article. Maybe there is a common thread to this problem.

Tag: Vonage

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rocketboom on Net Neutrality

Okay so I can’t leave this subject alone. Rocketboom decided to check in on Net Neutrality today. While I expected that they would take a protectionist stand on the issue. They are still researching the topic. Why do so many people want to legislate Net Neutrality when no communication provider in the U.S. has purposely restricted or impaired services from other sites? Stick to jump roping Amanda.

Tag: Net Neutrality, Rocketboom