Update: I have now had the chance to read the Vonage filing which is better described as a request for an investigation as opposed to a complaint. In fact, Vonage concludes its submission by arguing that "Shaw' s QofS Service has the potential to greatly damage nascent competition for local VoIP services across its serving territory. Vonage Canada is of the view, however, that not enough is known at this point about the Shaw service in order to formulate an appropriate regulatory response."
Vonage Canada has filed a complaint with the CRTC against Shaw over Shaw's VoIP premium surcharge. The cable company charges a $10 "quality of service enhancement" fee for VoIP users, which Vonage is characterizing as a VoIP tax. Vonage argues that because it "competes directly with the telephone services of the network operators that also provide the high-speed Internet access, the incentives to discriminate against us are clear. This will result in less innovation, less choice and higher prices for Canadian consumers in the long run."
This could become a hugely important case since much of the two-tier Internet is based on similar enhancement fees for either customers or web services. The CRTC mistakenly declined to address the net neutrality last year in its VoIP decision, despite considerable evidence that this was an emerging issue that could have debilitating effect on the Internet. In the months since that decision, both the telcos and cable cos have openly discussed their plans for a two-tier Internet. While it appears that Vonage has focused primarily on the need for greater transparency with the Shaw fee, this has opened the door to the CRTC becoming more engaged on network neutrality.
Update II: Vonage raises a long list of questions including:
a. What does Shaw's QofS Service consist of, from both a technological and service implementation perspective;
b. is Shaw's QofS Service properly viewed as an enhancement to Shaw's high-speed retail IS, or as a companion to local VoIP service;
c. does Shaw's QofS Service, in fact, deliver on the promise of enhancing a customer's use of the local VoIP service of a third party VISP;
d. if Shaw's QofS Service does, in fact, enhance a customer's use of this service, does it do so to any significant extent;
e. what is the justification for a recurring charge to the customer for a service that it appears, may consist of a one-time configuration of the Shaw-approved cable modem used by the customer to obtain Shaw's retail IS;
f. what is the take-up rate – past, present and likely future, of the Shaw QofS Service, and what is the likely effect of the service on competition in local VoIP services; and
g. what measures might be appropriate to ensure the Shaw QofS Service does not allow Shaw to discriminate unjustly among customers and against third party VISPs, e.g., the mandating of the QofS to all Shaw higher-speed Internet access customers, the ability of IS resellers or VoIP providers to resell the QofS Service, and on what terms and conditions, or other measures.
A case well worth watching.