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Comcast Lying About Vonage 390

Posted by kdawson
from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.
jehnx writes, "Apparently, Comcast is trying some new tricks to get people to sign up for its version of VoIP, 'Comcast Digital Voice,' according to Wang (of WangScript fame). From the blog post: 'Today my wife received a phone call from a Comcast representative who had called to promote their new "Comcast Digital Voice" service... Ordinarily, we don't mind Comcast calling us from time to time with new offers... [but this time] they proceeded to tell LIE after LIE in an attempt to convince us that Vonage was not as good as Comcast Digital Voice. Imagine how many people would be scared into using Comcast Digital Voice because Comcast makes them believe that Vonage is insecure and only works when your PC is turned on.' Is Comcast going a bit far in their techniques to lure in new customers?"
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Comcast Lying About Vonage

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 01, 2006 @10:10PM (#16271601)
    no encryption at all. Man in the middle attacks are very possible.
  • Think about it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msowka (320682) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @10:15PM (#16271643)
    do you really think this is Comcast, or some jerk rep that's trying to meet his quota or make an extra few $ on commission!

    (Why did this posting make it through?)
  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @10:19PM (#16271689)
    Then why are you just kicking up a shitstorm on slashdot?

    If they really are telling lies and they are really using fear mongering instead of honest product comparisons, then contact your fair trading /comsumer protections/ whatever offices instead. Alternatively just contact Vonage and tell them this happened and ask for their help.

    Here on old /. a few people will try to pull a few funny points etc, but nothing concrete will happen.

  • I call BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @10:28PM (#16271777) Journal
    Not that I'm completely sure of everything, but those old analogue phone lines that got replaced by Vonage service were insecure as can be, and Vonage didn't sell their service because its secure, they sold it because its CHEAPER! I'm also reasonably secure in thinking that Comcast has done more than just lie, I think they have done what they can to mess up how Vonage service routers work. Since Comcast changed to TimeWarner in my area, service has been much better, no dropped packets or dropped Vonage calls.

    Comcast has every reason to be underhanded in their dealings with Vonage customers, and not much reason to be worried. Lets guess who spends lots of money in Washington D.C.? Vonage? or maybe its Comcast that spends more?

    Verizon is also not trying to play nice either. They only want to offer good deals if you buy bundled services. This is business in the USA.

    The whole argument about security is false, misleading, and only made to confuse customers... trouble is the media gets confused too.
    It doesn't matter what voice service you use, it is susceptible to interception, end of story. The only thing that you can hope to do is make it more difficult to intercept it. Military grade encryption end-to-end is not available, and the US government won't allow it to be used anyway if they can at all prevent its use. (think of the children, or think of the terrorists) So the argument about which VoIP service is secure is a totally mute point.

  • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @10:34PM (#16271831) Homepage
    Companies often stretch the truth in advertising, sometimes to the point of outright lying, since they know the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) will likely do nothing; when the FTC does act, penalties (if any) are usually very light; $100K or whatever fine is nothing to a company taking in billions.

    On the bright side, Vonage is a big company too, and thus they can afford to play the deceptive ad game too ... with that said, at the moment, Comcast holds the winning hand regardless, since it has its own networks and has the ability to prioritize VOIP unlike Vonage which is basically at the mercy of the telcos, cable companies, etc.

    Old fashioned POTS (plain old telephone service) providers have Vonage beat, since POTS works even when the cable, internet, power, etc go out ...

    Ron
  • Nothing New (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BrookHarty (9119) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @10:38PM (#16271883) Homepage Journal
    I had Verizon not want to install DSL because I was went with Speakeasy. I finally said, IT really doesnt matter to me, and they tech installed DSL *THAT DAY*. I switched after to Speakeasy, but at least I got my DSL installed.

    People break rules, even if the company has policy in place.
  • by nwbvt (768631) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @10:59PM (#16272089)

    He probably works for Vonage, and is trying to hurt Comcast's reputation.

    On a more serious note, I've talked to many customer service reps who didn't know what they are talking about. I don't know that you can call it lying, it is perfectly possible this guy thought these things were true. Or maybe this guy is just a jerk who will be in the unemployment lines in a few weeks (every company has these, probably even Vonage). Bottom line is, you can't trust someone who calls you up during dinner to try to sell you a product. Just as you can't trust a single blogger that claims Comcast is running a massive campaign of disinformation because of a single experience.

  • by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @11:11PM (#16272179) Homepage
    Would be nice if those options were available in all areas. No place I lived in was able to get dsl or fttp.
  • by DarkFencer (260473) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @11:14PM (#16272195)
    Though there are few people I would think who would want VOIP without a real internet connection, you CAN pay for VOIP through most Cable providers without paying for internet access. Its using their own private network for internet access true, but its more of an intranet connection since the traffic is staying within the cable companies network for all or most of the path.
  • by Sam Nitzberg (242911) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @11:17PM (#16272223)
    I remember Comcast's adds encouraging people to "drop the dish" or something like that...
    What's funny is that I've driven by Comcast facilities... They use multiple satellite dishes. Looks like they get their signals from Satellite and then send the signals over their own ground-based network...... In that context, they should be pretty careful about criticizing dish-based reception.....
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday October 02, 2006 @12:45AM (#16272931) Journal

    Actually it's slightly more secure only because SS7 is a simple protocol compared to SIP (tunneled of course). It's also more secure in that a non-authorized person (like a private investigator) could not tap a VoIP connection without gaining entry to the premises. A POTS connection can be tapped by anybody who can access your line (anywhere). Comcast's VoIP likely uses similar technology to Vonage and so is probably just as secure.

    Define "secure"? POTS/DSL/Vonage-on-DSL has an inherent level of security and reliability above cable/cable-VoIP/vonage-on-cable because telco technology is [b]circuit based[/b]. Your line isn't dependant on a shared RF medium that can potently be snooped/jammed/interfered with by anybody else on the same node. Doubt that? Then explain why it took Time Warner six months to figure out that the problem with my Roadrunner service was a friggen 45 year old TV down the block leaking RF onto the cable plant? Had I TW's digital phone/vonage I would have been royally screwed. I can't recall the last time that my POTS/DSL service was taken down by a 45 year old phone next door....

    Anybody that relies on VoIP service over a cable connection is insane. My DSL service is circuit based and survives just about anything including power outages. My cable service doesn't even survive thunderstorms and dies during power outages, presumably because the repeaters aren't line powered.

  • by karnal (22275) on Monday October 02, 2006 @01:08AM (#16273149)
    Adjusting sound quality != QOS, BTW: What you're probably doing is adjusting the codec used to encode the voice data (some common ones off the top of my head are G.711 and G.729 - I believe .711 is 64kbit, and 729 is 8kbit, and I can tell a difference...)

    In addition, even if you're attempting to use QOS on their equipment, the Comcast network probably ignores it anyways. They wouldn't have any reason to prioritize Vonage traffic - the only downfall is that they could possibly degrade your service if they wanted to; but I would think they (Comcast) wouldn't stoop THAT low.
  • by alienw (585907) <alienw...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 02, 2006 @01:08AM (#16273161)
    Vonage has no QoS. The Internet in general has no QoS. The sound quality adjustment simply adjusts how much it compresses the data. The prioritization only works on your part of the network. Once it gets onto the internet, it's a free-for-all.
  • Cable is secure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SparcPlug (911168) on Monday October 02, 2006 @02:08AM (#16273563)
    ...that can potently be snooped/jammed/interfered with... Most cable providers implement BPI+ [cablemodem.com].
    From the BPI+ spec:
    Baseline Privacy Plus (BPI+) provides cable modem users with data privacy across the cable network. It does this by encrypting traffic flows between CM and CMTS.
    So an HFC network with BPI+ implemented affords more security than a POTS/DSL line since it is encrypted from end to end.

    You've obviously never had static/poor call quality on your POTS line. You are lucky.

    Also, PacketCable can provide clearer calls [arstechnica.com].

    I personally work for a cable company and can confirm that some in the call center are misinformed about products we provide. I would not put this in the 'malicious lie' category by any stretch. Do you honestly think large telco and cable companies only hire CSRs with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science? Of course some will get it wrong.

    This is FUD and I call shenanigans on his wife. I'd bet money the CSR said something about the phone not working when the CPE(customer premise equipment) is not powered. That would be true. That's why cable companies provide batteries for their eMTAs(phone adapters) for when the power goes out as well as UPSs for the CMTSs upstream.
  • More lies? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 02, 2006 @02:32AM (#16273705)
    "Vonage has a national 911 call center, we route 911 locally in your county"

    Their national 911 call center is just a backup. I've called 911 from my Vonage phone, and it routes to the local 911 center.

    The *also* have a national 911 center as a backup, e.g., if you're using Vonage from somewhere other than your home and they can't tell where. Does your "small cable company" offer that, too?

    "We are a local call center, where with Vonage, you may get routed to a call center in East India"

    Ah, good ol' FUD. "You may"! I've had Vonage for a year, and once it was set up, I never had to call them, but the couple times I've called while getting it set up, I don't think I was routed to East India. At least, if I was, it was enough to fool a native English speaker in America (both in terms of accent/dialect, and helpfulness). But "you may" get routed to East India, and you just can't take that risk! Oh no!

    "Vonage routes their calls over the public internet, which may result in poorer quality or dropped calls, we route calls over our private cable network"

    Ah, good ol' "may" again! When you have no facts, and aren't really sure of anything, these kind of weasel words are great for convincing potential customers that they need what you're selling. Come on: if your competitors' calls are lower-quality, or dropped more often, then *say so*. No more bullshitting.

    While I'm not exactly a fan of Comcast, its all too easy to get a lone CSR (in any company) who really doesnt know what he/she is talking about and will say just about anything to win back customers.

    I think I know what you mean...
  • by Cramer (69040) on Monday October 02, 2006 @03:11AM (#16273927) Homepage
    DSL is no better than Cable. While you are somewhat more electrically isolated from your neighbors, it's still ultimately shared... On cable, yes, my packets and my neighbor's packets are on the same physical wire all the way to the head end (where thousands of other's meet on their way to the ISP.) On DSL, they travel down the same trunk to the DSLAM (where they meet and travel down a T1/T3/OC-3 (depending on how cheap your provider is) to the ISP.) While it looks easy to snoop your neighbor's traffic on cable -- it's right there on the cable just the same as yours, the volume (and number of channels) means you have a lot to hunt through to find one specific modem. And cablemodems support "baseline privacy" that scrambles the data making it harder to decode. (but it's still "simple" crypto, designed to limit cloning.)

    DSL is a bit of a challenge, too. However, DSL can be monitored from other pairs in the same trunk just like a cable modem. (listen for weak cross-talk.) The DSL physical layer isn't scrambled at all, so if you can see the signal (no matter how weak), it can be decoded with ease.

    The PSTN ceased to be truly circuit switched decades ago. It's been digitized, packet switching for a long time. The only circuit is in the "last mile" from the CO to CPE. And more often than not these days, your copper wires don't even go all the way back to the CO; they go to a multiplexer. (or "remote DSLAM" if we're talking DSL.)

    As to which is "secure"... neither. POTS/DSL is easiest to sniff if you're willing to sneak around to plant a physical tap -- on the NID or any of the boxes on down the line, right down to breaking into the DSLAM itself. Cable just requires you be somewhere in the neighborhood (no sneaking required), and willing to sift through a lot of noise to find one specific modem's traffic.

    On the issue of power, both DSL and cable are endpoint powered. If your house loses power, your modem will stop working. It doesn't matter if it's a DSL modem or a Cable modem. Telco's may have more experience with keeping their equipment powered, but they aren't going to give a shit if the DSLAM loses power during a storm; they'll only care about keeping "lifeline" services (read: POTS) functional. That DSLAM in the cabinet at the top of the hill doesn't have a generator backing it up.
  • Be serious! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BCW2 (168187) on Monday October 02, 2006 @09:56AM (#16276123) Journal
    Since when does the marketing Dept of any company tell the truth? Especially when coparing their product with a competitors! This is everyday business and shouldn't even be news.
  • by Uteck (127534) on Monday October 02, 2006 @10:05AM (#16276235)
    ..just like the Vonage commercials. Vonage needs to spend that money they milked from idiots, I mean investors, on an advertising campaign that works better. How effective is their current strategy working? Every ISP now offers a bundled phone service and most offer some sort of QoS that may or may not work, but they are still trying. My ISP has now lowered their price so it is competitive with the amount I pay Vonage, but I am staying with Vonage until the ISP price is better, or becomes a bundled service, or Vonage runs out of money. The perspectius on their stock said they don't expect to be profitable, glad I read that first otherwise I might have wasted some money.

    I think Vonage may be suffering from a branding issue like Tivo is. Most people call any PVR a Tivo, and the same thing may be happening with people thinking that any VOIP service is Vonage.

    I also do believe that Comcast is directly behind this. I live near Batavia and remember how hard Comcrap and AS&S fought the proposed municipal TV and phone service, then reneged on their promised upgrades after they got the ballot defeated.

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