Shaw is now offering a $10 VoIP "quality of service enhancement" product accompanied by a warning that failure to pay the fee may result in quality of service issues with third party providers. Primus objects, characterizing the fee as a VoIP tax.
The use of packet preferencing or VoIP quality of service fees was precisely the issue I raised in a recent column on why the CRTC’s VoIP decision failed to address the real VoIP competitive threat. While the CRTC has the power to address unfair advantages by network providers (as it pointed out in a letter to the editor responding to my column), the practical reality is that telco and cable co.’s will look for ways to gain competitive advantages that use their direct link with the customer until the CRTC says otherwise. The CRTC had the chance to do so in the VoIP decision but concluded that there was no evidence to support such a move. We have already seen the FCC take action in the U.S. and now similar stories are emerging in Canada. How much more evidence does the CRTC need?
Yes, the CRTC is going to have to step into this and deal with the issue soon. When Shaw first made this announcement I was suspect about their explaination. Hardware providers have been building QoS technology into the internet for years now precisely for resolving issues about delivery of voice content. Further, Shaw claims they can provide a QoS enhancement to fix the problem but how can they guarantee the user will see a difference (and therefore substantiate the value) if they only control a small portion of the network between the source and destination of a VoIP call? Gee, what happens if Telus and/or Bell jumps on this bandwagon? Consider the situation where th source is Shaw and the destination is Telus/Bell? Does that mean we have to pay Shaw $10.00 and Telus/Bell $10.00?
IEEE Spectrum reports that a California company supplies software to ISP’s solely for the purpose of degrading VoIP performance. It is reported that companies all around the world are using the software to control third party VoIP activity on their networks. So, now I’m suspect that Shaw has licensed this software and is using it to promote its’ VoIP service over that of Vonage and Primus.
The evidence is obvious now and the CRTC must act.