Shaw fires back at Vonage over VOIP tax

Mark Evans writes that Shaw is firing back at Vonage over its complaint regarding Shaw’s $10 per month Quality of Service (QoS) fee for non-Shaw VOIP application. Although this issue has, and should continue to have, important considerations from a competition perspective, I think we also need to continue asking probing questions from a consumer protection perspective. In other words, if an ISP advertises a data connection with no monthly caps on data transfer and with a speed with X megs/sec of speed and then throttles it down selectively depending on the amount of use by a particular consumer, should that not attract some sort of liability from a consumer protection perspective? Likewise, if a service is advertised as providing “Internet access” and then certain ports are blocked, should the ISP not be forced to prominently disclose that information? Finally, the same issue if the ISP gives a higher priority to their services at the expense of competing services that a consumer may be trying to access.

Although not directly related, there’s also the issue of DSL and cable ISP providers advertising speeds “up to X” when (1) not every subscriber can actually obtain services at those speeds (ever) because the last mile links may not support it (my DSL link, which is advertised and sold as a 3 meg service, is actually throttled down to 1.6-1.7 megs due to line quality issues); and (2) the speed during “normal” surfing hours may be much lower due to the use of shared media or other network bottlenecks. We should have mandatory disclosure requirements so that consumers are able to make informed decisions.

P.S., I think its a good thing that Shaw is offering this optional “enhancement” – my concern has more to do with ISPs providing more disclosure on what they are doing so that customers can better understand what they are buying.