TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Vonage Complaining Of VoIP 'Blocking'

Re: Vonage Complaining Of VoIP 'Blocking'

Michael D. Sullivan (userid@camsul.example.invalid)
Wed, 16 Feb 2005 07:34:58 GMT

In article <>, says...

> That's what gets me. Last I remember, to qualify as a common carrier, an
> ISP isn't allowed to exact any sort of traffic control beyond what is
> necessary to maintain the stability of the network. Anything more and it
> could be seen as having the ability to control its content, and would be
> vicariously liable for crimes committed over its infrastructure and
> services.

> Isn't that still the case?

ISPs are not and never have been common carriers. They are providers of
information service. So is Vonage. Information service providers are
not subject to any of the restrictions on discrimination that are
imposed on common carriers.

ISPs and other information service providers are given some of the
protections that have traditionally been given to common carriers, such
as not being responsible for the content of postings. That doesn't make
them common carriers. They are entitled to refuse service or to curtail
service without any significant regulatory constraints. (Obviously,
they have to comply with laws that apply to all businesses, such as
those concerning racial and sexual discrimination.) Many internet
posters seem to think ISPs or forums are common carriers because they
aren't responsible for the third-party content they pass along. That is
completely incorrect. They have been given some of the protections
afforded common carriers but have not been classified as common carriers
and are not subject to the restrictions on common carriers.

TELECOM Digest Editor Noted in response:

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I can tell you that Southwestern Bell
> has always claimed 'common carrier status' on their DSL service as
> a way to avoid any/all spam filtering on user's mailboxes. They won't
> even sort perceived spam into a separate spam box as CableOne does.
> It just all goes into your mailbox -- all several hundred pieces of
> it daily. How you want to sort it is your business. Just call this
> one of my several minor complaints with SBC, which is why I dumped
> them out of my house totally. PAT]

Pat, I seriously doubt that SBC claimed that their DSL ISP subsidiary
was a common carrier, because the FCC specifically required it to
separate its retail ISP offering from its common carrier telco
subsidiary that provides the DSL line, because the broadband ISP
offering is an information service, which is by definition *not* a
common carrier service. SBC may have avoided spam filtering because it
was concerned about lawsuits from those filtered, but not in order to
remain a common carrier. Believe me, no telco wants to be subject to
common carrier regulation, and they all try like heck to structure new
services as non-common-carrier services. For example, Vonage is not a
common carrier, but an information service provider, says the FCC. AT&T
is battling the FCC about its enhanced calling card service, claiming
that because it contains ads, it isn't a common carrier service but an
information service.

Being a common carrier -- i.e., telecommunications carrier -- means that
your costs are higher than they would be otherwise (e.g., USF support
based on end-user revenues, telecommunications excise tax on certain
services, CALEA, etc.), you have to avoid charging unreasonable rates
(whatever that means) and unreasonably discriminating among customers,
and you have to apply to the FCC for permission to stop providing
service, bizarrely. It has nothing whatever to do with your ability to
filter email or refuse connections to certain IP addresses or ports.
For what it's worth, Verizon's ISP subsidiary, Verizon Online, has
filtered email and been moderately selective about newsgroups for years
and has lately been very aggressively blocking email from domains it
believes are harboring spammers, even to the extent of blocking email
from much of Europe. Customers are not pleased. But in its ISP
business, Verizon isn't a common carrier.

Michael D. Sullivan
Bethesda, MD, USA
Replace "example.invalid" with ".com".

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