Category Archives: Telecom

Vonage Developments

There have been many recent posts regarding Vonage’s IPO. However, the news that I found more interesting comes from VOIP and Gadgets Blog’s posting – a source informed them that Vonage may open up its SIP credentials to enable users to configure their own SIP softphones and SIP hardphones to work with the Vonage service at no additional charge. I for one had tried the Vonage service early on and had terminated my account due to two factors: (i) many Vonage competitors were less expensive and (ii) the Vonage service would only work with locked telephone adapters and did not allow the freedom of using softphones or wi-fi voip handsets except as an add-on (and at an additional cost). Who wants to have to carry a bulky voice-over-IP adapter around when traveling? On the other hand, Vonage is larger and more credible than many of the smaller VOIP players. If they did open up their service, I would definitely consider re-activating service with them.

Bell Canada and Privacy

I’ve blogged in the past about Canadian privacy implications of outsourcing the the US. Well, recently I discovered that Bell Canada has been offering a number of services to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that appear to be hosted in the US and where it appears that Bell customers are not being notified of that fact. In response, I wrote Bell’s Privacy Ombudsman to express my concern. I was pleased to hear that Bell is reviewing their privacy policy and marketing materials for such services and intends to take steps to both notify customers of this fact as well as obtain their express consent. Hopefully more Canadian companies will follow Bell’s example with respect to obtaining express consent.

Telecommunications Policy Review Panel and Network Neutrality

Canada’s Telecommunications Policy Review Panel is expected to issue its report later this month or sometime in February. Hopefully, the concerns addressed will include the issue of network neutrality. A number of the public submissions supported implementation of a policy providing for network neutrality – including those filed by Michael Geist (pdf), Patricia Arney (doc) and Tucows (doc). Not surprisingly, the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association took the position that regulatory intervention supporting network neutrality was not required.

Canadian Protectionism in Broadcasting

Last Saturday I got a chance to watch the Canadian second season premier of Battlestar Galactica. Of course, if you live outside of Canada, you probably had the opportunity to watch that episode several months ago on the SciFi Channel. However, most Canadians are not so privileged.

You see, notwithstanding trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canada Government negotiated exemptions for its “cultural industries”. That means that US companies like DISH Network and DirectTV are not allowed to offer their services in Canada. Sometimes the result is substandard access to programming. I mean, why should Canadian broadcasters bid for first run programming when the bulk of their market can be made to wait until they acquire cheaper re-runs. This has driven hundreds of thousands of Canadians to risk criminal sanctions in order to operate a grey/black market DirectTV/DISH Network receivers or to engage in copyright infringement by downloading episodes of their favorite programs from P2P networks.

Responding to the Network Neutrality Threat

Google, Yahoo, Vonage and other Internet content/service providers should develop a proactive response to the network neutrality threat. My suggestion is that each should start offering a bandwidth testing service. Add a little button on the home page for your customers to click and measure their network bandwidth and latency to your own site. Capture the data, including their ISP information, and build up a database. Next time another customer using that same ISP clicks on the bandwidth test button, show them your data ranked by the ISP providing the lowest latency. If any ISPs in the area start to implement a two-tiered structure where some traffic is given priority over your own, start running banner ads “click here for information on how to improve your surfing experience”so that customers can be redirected to competing ISPs that are not adversely prioritizing your traffic. Even if this whole network neutrality thing goes away, this will still be a useful tool for your customers to use.

Network Neutrality

Daily Wireless has a good article on network neutrality, including a number of good links. While this can potentially turn into a serious problem, hopefully new competition for the telephone company / cable Internet broadband access duopoly – from (i) WiMax, (ii) EDGE/EVDO wireless data, and (iii) power line delivered Internet access – will prevent this from occurring.

It is also possible that this is all hype being put out by the existing operators as a warning to companies like Google to think twice before branching out into the internet access business themselves. But just in case, it is important not to just ignore the coming battle. Jeff Pulver raises some good issues in his recent blog – what if the downgrading of competitor’s voice over IP service results in 911 operators being unable to properly take emergency calls.