Vonage Says ISP Blocked Its Calls

VoIP service provider Vonage Holdings has reported to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission that a broadband Internet provider deliberately blocked Vonage customers' calls.

Vonage users who are customers of the broadband provider reported late last year that they suddenly couldn't use the Vonage service, says Brooke Schulz, vice president of corporate communications at Vonage, in Edison, New Jersey. Vonage did some troubleshooting and discovered that network ports over which its calls traveled had been deliberately blocked, she says. Vonage then manually rerouted its calls through the network as a temporary solution to the problem, Schulz says. Schulz declines to name the broadband provider.

VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) technology breaks up voice calls into data packets and sends them over IP networks, a transmission method that is more efficient than traditional telephone switching, generally leading to lower phone bills. Calls made on a VoIP service may travel over the broadband data network of a consumer's phone company or cable provider while bypassing that provider's own voice calling service.

Illegal Action?

Vonage believes deliberate blocking of its calls is illegal, according to Schulz.

"We think it's infringing upon the customer's right ... to use the service to the best of their ability and to suit their needs," she says.

Vonage met with the FCC earlier this month to discuss the problem but has not filed a complaint, Schulz says. The company is now waiting for a response from the FCC before it decides how to proceed, she says. An FCC spokesperson declined to comment.

The incident Vonage discussed with the FCC was particularly disconcerting, Schulz says, but Vonage is also investigating other possible cases of call blocking.

Vonage has been a trailblazer in VoIP, expanding its local service to 44 U.S. states and coming up against regulatory challenges in the process. In a closely watched ruling last year, the FCC ruled that Vonage's DigitalVoice service could not be regulated by the states, after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission moved to regulate DigitalVoice like a traditional telecommunications service.

Vonage has approximately 400,000 customers, most of them in the U.S. and Canada, Schulz says.

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