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Vonage Files Regulatory Complaint Over QoS Premium 160

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the not-gonna-take-it dept.
xoip writes "A Recent CBC report says that Vonage Canada has filed a complaint with Federal Regulators over a New $10.00 per month Quality of Service Premium that Broadband Internet provider, Shaw Cable has begun charging customers of VoIP. Noted Internet Legal expert Michael Geist has written an excellent review of the complaint Vonage made to the CRTC and highlights the point made in the Vonage filing, 'that not enough is known at this point about the Shaw service in order to formulate an appropriate regulatory response.'"
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Vonage Files Regulatory Complaint Over QoS Premium

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  • by From A Far Away Land (930780) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @11:47PM (#14888422) Homepage Journal
    Vonage and other VoIP providers are getting shafted by Sasktel a major Canadian telco. Sasktel is a crown corporation, and own the lines in Saskatchewan. It was only recently that other providers were permitted to sell long distance there, and Saskatchewanians can't get a VoIP phone number with their local area code because Sasktel charges Vonage too much for a block of numbers. They claim they are selling them at a price that's in line with other regions, but how come in every other Canadian province you can get a local area code for your VoIP phone?
  • Follow the Leader (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:01AM (#14888479) Homepage Journal
    This defensive action by Vonage is a good justification for their somewhat annoying presence in the industry. It would be much more likely to protect the entire industry, including random newcomers, if the various VoIP carriers could get together in an industry association. But they couldn't even get together to grap the pronouncable acronym "VIP". So meanwhile, at least there's an agressive asskicker in Vonage to clear the way for the rest to follow.
  • Easy solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:02AM (#14888485) Homepage Journal
    If the folks at Shaw Cable would do something about the number of spambots and spammers on their network, they'd have more than enough bandwidth to provide VoIP. This is pretty nominal for my little corner of the internet:
    **Unmatched Entries**
    ruleset=check_rcpt, arg1=<XXXX@davenjudy.org>, relay=S01060014bf9e1ea8.cg.shawcable.net [68.147.163.39], reject=550 5.7.1 <XXXX@davenjudy.org>... Access denied: 3 Time(s)
    STARTTLS=client, relay=cardinal.lhup.edu., version=TLSv1/SSLv3, verify=FAIL, cipher=RC4-MD5, bits=128/128: 3 Time(s)
    STARTTLS=client, relay=valuecity.com.s8a1.psmtp.com., version=TLSv1/SSLv3, verify=FAIL, cipher=AES256-SHA, bits=256/256: 2 Time(s)
    ruleset=check_rcpt, arg1=<XXXX@davenjudy.org>, relay=cable-201-12-181-224.rec.megazon.com.br [201.12.181.224], reject=550 5.7.1 <XXXX@davenjudy.org>... Access denied: 1 Time(s)
    ruleset=check_rcpt, arg1=<XXXX@davenjudy.org>, relay=S010600c0a88bbe6a.cg.shawcable.net [68.146.238.100], reject=550 5.7.1 <XXXX@davenjudy.org>... Access denied: 1 Time(s)
    ruleset=check_rcpt, arg1=<XXXX@davenjudy.org>, relay=S010600152fa8f43f.vc.shawcable.net [24.86.122.21], reject=550 5.7.1 <XXXX@davenjudy.org>... Access denied: 1 Time(s)
    STARTTLS=client, relay=langesales.com., version=TLSv1/SSLv3, verify=FAIL, cipher=RC4-MD5, bits=128/128: 1 Time(s)
    ruleset=check_rcpt, arg1=<XXXX@davenjudy.org>, relay=20151065001.user.veloxzone.com.br [201.51.65.1], reject=550 5.7.1 <XXXX@davenjudy.org>... Access denied: 1 Time(s)
    ruleset=check_rcpt, arg1=<XXXX@davenjudy.org>, relay=[218.29.22.72], reject=550 5.7.1 <XXXX@davenjudy.org>... Access denied: 1 Time(s)
    Yes, I just block everything originating from shawcable.net.
  • I'm a Vonage and Shaw customer, having moved last fall to the Victoria, BC area from Toronto, and want to comment on this.

    First off, while I'm as irritated and confused as everyone else, this fee is optional. Shaw isn't automatically charging people who use VoIP this extra fee. Apparantly, this is an added fee that VoIP users can pay to get better guaranteed QoS for their voice data packets.

    I'm not quite sure how I feel about this, and at this time have no intention to pay the fee. On one hand, giving voice data network prioritization isn't necessarily a bad thing -- most home VoIP NAT routers provide a QoS service to do just this so downloads don't obliterate your ability to use your phone. At the same time, nobody else is charging these fees, and respecting QoS for VoIP packets isn't going to cost Shaw anything, so why should the consumer pay for such a service int he first place?

    Shaw called me a few weeks ago asking me about my phone service, in an attempt to sell me on their new VoIP-based service. I told them I have Vonage. They asked me what services I was getting, and listed off the litany of services I'm getting. Then they asked me the price -- and suffice to say, I'm getting way more from Vonage, and am paying less. The phone jockey on the other end didn't know what to say about that, so just said "Uh, thanks, sorry for bothering you" and hung up.

    As to the actual quality of service I'm getting -- I haven't had a single drop-out in my VoIP service in the two months that I've had it. Not a single blip. However, I also use iChat AV pretty heavily to take to family back home, and I have been having significant drop-outs in both audio and video conferences with family back in Toronto in recent weeks, where these problems didn't exist before. It's hard to say exactly where the fault lies, but I've been getting drop-outs galore in both audio-only and video conference mode between here and Toronto in the last month. I do have to recognise, however, that I do live on an island, and have no idea what the maximum bandwidth is like between the mainland and here. I can only believe that bandwidth usage is increasing, but at this time have no idea whether or not Shaw is working on running more underwater cabling between the mainland and Vancouver Island. It could just be because (due to time zones) my iChat AV conversations generally take place during peak hours.

    So far, Vonage has been problem free, but I'm not a heavy phone user (I'm only paying for the 500 minute/month plan, with another 500 minutes through the soft phone option. I generally don't come even close to the 500 minutes per month). Perhaps I've just been lucky thus far. I have no intention to pay them another $10 a month just to get the service I'm already paying for, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my thus-far trouble free VoIP experience doesn't negatively change in the future.

    Yaz.

  • by Kris2k (676294) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:22AM (#14888559)

    Actually what you don't know about Primus, is that its not their fault; but Bell Canada who hasn't been maintaining their ATM cloud that interconnects YOU and Primus together.

    So, you can put the blame on the ISP, however, the true blame is the "behind the scenes" carrier that is good old Ma-Bell.

    I've had soo many problems related to Bell's deficiencies, and its nothing that can be easily resolved. I've heard stories as amusing as a remote DLSAM having all of its's subscriber ports FULL, causing a waiting list for ADSL subscription in the area, and, to top-off the frustration, the 45mbps ATM link tops the 100% usage during the evening.

    So, how does the enduser perceive this? The ISP is shitty as hell, tech support is incompetent, so the enduser switches DSL provider to only realize that the crappy speed continues. Next thing you know, he's subscribing to Cable where its suddenly "fast" again.

    There's a lot of the voip glitches that are associated to the back-end carrier that manages the ATM cloud that interconnects the subscriber (you), and the ISP (primus). You can't see it with regular web browsing, but the second you start using realtime protocols, you'll notice it.

  • by PhYrE2k2 (806396) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:37AM (#14888617)
    Rogers (formerly a Shaw area) around here has Ultra-Lite, Lite, Express (3Mbit down), and Extreme (6Mbit down). Each provides a different maximum speed and level of service for customers who feel the need to save money and receive a service comparable to just over dialup, to extreme for users who want 6Mbit downstream. You get more capability and pay a premium for the ability to burst into higher speeds, despite most users sitting at idle for much of the time, and still having a total transfer cap.

    What Vonage is claiming is that this is different than any other sort of service addition (and that this makes them priced higher than Ma Bell and hence can't compete, or can't compete with similar offerings in the area).

    My argument is that they are saying "our service does not guarentee any latency, and we cater more to raw throughput, the traditional measure. We'll give you the possibility to have less latency, which is useful for real-time uses such as voice and video, but for a fee". How is this different than "we'll give you the possibility to have higher burst speeds useful for mass file transfers".

    Users with specific uses that aren't a part of 'the masses' will get charged. I pay a few dollars a month extra on my phone line for touch-tone. I pay for the ability to use on-demand with Rogers. I pay a premium for GSM versus using EDGE/GPRS. This is life. You pay for what you use. When _everyone_ has a blackberry- then the standard rates will include it. Until then, the people who want e-mail will pay for it, so that those who don't won't have to.

    This of course all assumes that they actually take these into account and that they do benefit their service. If it's a scam, then we have another story.
  • by colenski (552404) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:10AM (#14888714) Homepage
    I am running 30 remote boxes for a business over 30 Shaw cable modems to an Asterisk server via IAX. I am passing TOS bits and I know for a fact that Shaw is dropping the TOS bits. I tested this by running test calls from cable modem to cable modem - all on Shaw, never hopped to another network - and examining the TOS with TCPdump. 0x0. *and* we are paying the $10 extra - they call it "lightspeed" or some such.

    That being said, it ain't that bad with Shaw. Thank god for the Asterisk jitterbuffer, though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:22AM (#14888743)
    In the past few years I worked as a contractor on Bell Canada's network configuration and analysis software, and also on a system to map their network.

    So I can say with some experience/confidence that you are 100% correct about the pathetic Bell Canada situation. I had never seen such a disaster.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:23AM (#14888745)
    As an interesting side note;
    Rogers is also using traffic shaping technology to reduce (supposedly) upstream load on their network. This was introduced after their Digital Phone Service launched, DPS is not VoIP, it uses a seperate part of the cable spectrum. I don't know if the traffic shaping is affecting VoIP, it certainly hits p2p traffic, the timing is suspect though.
  • by tdzido (960190) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:23AM (#14888749) Homepage
    Here is a bit of my interesting experience: I'm using the Vonage box on frequent travels to Eastern Europe and I will tell you something - it works WAY better than here, in the US. Actually, it works great there! Crystal clear, no delays. I've had friends who had to cancel their Vonage accounts in major cities such as Chicago or NYC (users of SBC and Comcast). OK, I'm always trying to use the fastest provider available when in Europe, but here is the thing: those European connections are NOT as fast as ours, and I believe it's not about the quality of the connection, it is ONLY about the deprioritization of SIP packets on the US networks, or at least on parts of networks managed by major US ISPs. What would be the other explanation? I can download and upload stuff super fast, I just can't talk on the phone which uses a few kb/s of my hunders k of bandwidth. This is ridiculous. I'm surprised that nobody from the VOIP world has done some serious research and actually sued the big telecoms. Or maybe I'm so wrong making my common-sense assumptions?
  • Research the product (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GuruHal (229087) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:29AM (#14888767)
    I think we need to examine Shaw vs Vonage telephony for a minute. ***Disclaimer: After comparing the two services side-by-side, I'm a Shaw Phone customer.

          Vonage is VoIP running over standard ethernet on the Internet. It's voice traffic competes with every other data packet on the Internet, no matter if it's on Shaw's network, or Telus' network, or the Internet in general. Vonage is portable and available on any high speed network.

          Shaw Phone may technically be VoIP, but it runs on seperate hardware (an independant modem with no active data connections), on a seperate channel allocation than Internet (a managed voice network) and doesn't have to compete with Internet traffic. It's routed to the PSTN without touching the Internet so the voice packets don't require QoS. Shaw's telephony is NOT portable, its for home use only.

          This is like comparing apples to oranges. I've tried Vonage and although it worked okay, at times the packet loss was unbearable. I don't care what the excuse is (overloaded nodes, Internet traffic spikes, etc), when I use the phone I just want it to work. Period. I also think that 911 is pretty much a required service and there are some significant differences between Shaw and Vonage in that respect, but thats a different debate. Shaw Phone isn't perfect, but its certainly better than Vonage in my experience.

          The QoS service definitely isn't a tax because its not mandatory and Vonage works as advertised without it. Besides all that, Shaw can only offer QoS on their own network. Once the traffic leaves their network QoS is meaningless. Would I subscribe to QoS? Probably not, but then again I'm not using Vonage.

    And to the earlier poster who suggested that Shaw should reduce the number of customer spambots on their networks to reduce traffic overhead - I couldn't agree more. Turn that bandwidth shaping towards the spam relays and cut their service until they correct their problems. They'd probably gain a significant amount of usable bandwidth for the effort.
  • by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:45AM (#14888807)
    If they'll let me pay $10 a month to prioritize VoIP, can I pay them $10 to prioritize my bittorrent packets? Or can I use the VoIP prioritization to sidestep their traffic shaping.

    Since Christmas, torrent traffic has been badly shaped on Shaw...when it takes 72 hours to download the just-released Gentoo install CD from their tracker, you know something's wrong. It's not like it wasn't well-seeded....
  • The only problem, and the only time the CRTC should get inolved, is when they start arbitrarily REDUCING the quality of service for specific protocols. I'm more concerned wiht throttling of bittorrent arbitrarily than I am with offering optional QoS for voip.

    The only other case where the CRTC might get involved is if Shaw is misrepresenting the fee to their customers. I haven't been contacted by Shaw myself, but I've heard reports that Shaw has been calling some Vonage customers and telling them that their VoIP service might not work right if they don't pay this extra fee.

    If this is the case, then Shaw may not be properly representing the fee and its plusses and minuses. If they're calling people and trying to scare them into paying extra money or their phone service might not work in the future, that would seem to me to be extortion. And as Shaw now offers their own VoIP service where they don't charge customers this extra fee, the CRTC may have something to say about them attempting to make their competitors VoIP services more expensive.

    I think more evidence will have to come out into the public either way before I pass any sort of personal judgement. I'm just hoping that my VoIP service keeps working as it always has -- if it starts going downhill, I'm not going to be terribly impressed.

    Yaz.

  • Re:I *hate* Vonage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:09AM (#14888870)
    My main problem with Vonage is it's simply not very reliable. People seem to assume the internet connection itself is the weak link, but my experience has been just the opposite. Every time the phone goes out, I check my Internet connection and it's just fine. Sometimes unplugging the SIP box for a moment causes Vonage to start working again. That's just ridiculous. I will give Vonage one thing, at least they provide voicemail that still works when the service to my home is down.
  • by kamikaze-Tech (871353) * on Friday March 10, 2006 @03:07AM (#14889036)
    Regardless of who you use for VoIP, you might gain some knowledge of the underlying issue in this post in the Vonage Canada Forum [vonage-forum.com] on the Vonage Forums: Shaw Issues QoS enhancement surcharge [vonage-forum.com]

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