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VoIP Backlash From Phone Companies

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the free-calls-can-cost dept.

Communications 281

denis-The-menace writes "An article from the online edition of IEEE Spectrum says phone companies in France, Germany, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have announced they will block VoIP calls on their networks. Using new software from Narus Inc., the carriers can detect data packets belonging to VoIP applications and block the calls. Gotta love Ma Bell." From the article: "Narus's software does far more than just frustrate Skype users. It can also diagnose, and react to, denial-of-service attacks and dangerous viruses and worms as they wiggle through a network. It makes possible digital wiretaps, a capability that carriers are required by law to have. However, these positive applications for Narus's software may not be enough to make Internet users warm to its use. 'Protecting its network is a legitimate thing for a carrier to do ... But it's another thing for a Comcast to charge more if I use my own TiVo instead of the personal video recorder they provide, or for Time Warner, which owns CNN, to charge a premium if I want to watch Fox News on my computer.'"

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281 comments

slashdotted out of the gate (3, Insightful)

cagle_.25 (715952) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848156)

Heh ... I couldn't even RTFA with 0 comments posted. *Sigh*.

Question for the knowledgeable: could VOIP companies invoke the WTO for anti-competitive practices?

Re:slashdotted out of the gate (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848185)

The VoIP Backlash
By: Steven Cherry
Internet-based telephony saves consumers money by bypassing traditional carriers--but new software lets the carriers block those pennies-per-minute calls

The convergence of telephony and the Internet is a great thing for consumers. It makes voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services, such as Vonage, Packet8, and Skype, possible.

In particular, Skype Technologies SA, in London, looms as a dagger poised to cut your phone costs--and your local phone company's profits. With its SkypeOut service, a call anywhere in the world costs about 3 US cents per minute. And when the recipient is also a Skype user, the call is absolutely free.

In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, regulations protect a phone company's revenues, prohibiting customers from saving money by making phone calls using any service other than the national carrier, Saudi Telecom, based in Riyadh. Skype users there have gleefully flouted those regulations, paying cheap local tariffs to access the Internet and use it for their calls, instead of directly using Saudi Telecom's expensive long-distance and international calling services.

Although these Skype calls travel along Saudi Telecom's network, the national carrier had been helpless to prevent the practice--VoIP phone calls were just ordinary data packets, indistinguishable from Web and e-mail traffic. Until now.

A seven-year-old Mountain View, Calif., company, Narus Inc., has devised a way for telephone companies to detect data packets belonging to VoIP applications and block the calls. For example, now when someone in Riyadh clicks on Skype's "call" button, Narus's software, installed on the carrier's network, swoops into action. It analyzes the packets flowing across the network, notices what protocols they adhere to, and flags the call as VoIP. In most cases, it can even identify the specific software being used, such as Skype's.

Narus's software can "secure, analyze, monitor, and mediate any traffic in an IP network," says Antonio Nucci, the company's chief technology officer. By "mediate" he means block, or otherwise interfere with, data packets as they travel through the network in real time.

Another of Narus's Skype-blocking customers is Giza Systems, a consulting company that specializes in information technologies. Giza, which is based in Cairo, Egypt, installed Narus's software on the network of a Middle Eastern carrier in the spring. Nucci wouldn't say which one, but presumably it is Telecom Egypt, the national phone company. Narus already has a close relationship with the carrier, having written the software for its billing system.

The desire to block or charge for VoIP phone calls extends far beyond the Middle East. According to Jay Thomas, Narus's vice president of product marketing, it can be found in South America, Asia, and Europe. International communications giant Vodafone recently announced a plan to block VoIP calls in Germany, Thomas says. A French wireless carrier, SFR, has announced a similar plan for France.

Nor is it just Skype that's at risk. Most international telephone calling cards also use VoIP technology.

In the United States and many other countries, a phone company's common carrier status prevents it from blocking potentially competitive services.

"But there's nothing that keeps a carrier in the United States from introducing jitter, so the quality of the conversation isn't good," Thomas says. "So the user will either pay for the carrier's voice-over-Internet application, which brings revenue to the carrier, or pay the carrier for a premium service that allows Skype use to continue. You can deteriorate the service, introduce latency [audible delays in hearing the other end of the line], and also offer a premium to improve it."

U.S. broadband-cable companies are considered information services, which by law gives them the right to block VoIP calls. Comcast Corp., in Philadelphia, the country's largest cable company, is already a Narus customer; Thomas declined to say whether Comcast uses the VoIP-blocking capabilities.

In August, a Federal Communications Commission ruling gave phone companies the same latitude for DSL.

Narus's software does far more than just frustrate Skype users. It can also diagnose, and react to, denial-of-service attacks and dangerous viruses and worms as they wiggle through a network. It makes possible digital wiretaps, a capability that carriers are required by law to have.

However, these positive applications for Narus's software may not be enough to make Internet users warm to its use. "Protecting its network is a legitimate thing for a carrier to do," says Alex Curtis, government affairs manager for Public Knowledge, a consumer-interest advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it's another thing for a Comcast to charge more if I use my own TiVo instead of the personal video recorder they provide, or for Time Warner, which owns CNN, to charge a premium if I want to watch Fox News on my computer."

Public Knowledge advocates a set of principles of "network neutrality." One is open attachment--the right to connect that TiVo, or any Internet-enabled hardware, to a network. Another is a right of openness to all application developers, such as Skype, and information providers. "Consumers have come to expect a lot from the Internet--to be able to get to any site, for example, or any service, like VoIP," Curtis says. "Without Net neutrality, that goes out the window."

Such concerns used to be largely academic, because carriers had no way of restricting the activities of their customers anyway. Software such as Narus's, with its ability to do what the company euphemistically calls "content-based billing," puts the issue front and center.

Re:slashdotted out of the gate (3, Informative)

Pentavirate (867026) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848211)

I took out the nyud.net:8090 and it worked fine. FYI.

Re:slashdotted out of the gate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848380)

Slashdotted... or Narused?

Re:slashdotted out of the gate (5, Funny)

chucks86 (799149) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848396)

I accidentally clicked the link and was directed to the site right away... Strange thing, this Internet.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848157)

fp

Re:fp (2, Funny)

rovingeyes (575063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848270)

Hey can we also get Narus to detect this fp crap? I'd pay for it goddammit!

Re:fp (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848557)

Nth post!

rly? (2, Funny)

gr8gatzby (624204) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848158)

If I lived back in the wild west days, instead of carrying a six-gun in my holster, I'd carry a soldering iron. That way, if some smart-aleck cowboy said something like "Hey, look. He's carrying a soldering iron!" and started laughing, and everybody else started laughing, I could just say, "That's right, it's a soldering iron. The soldering iron of justice." Then everybody would get real quiet and ashamed, because they had made fun of the soldering iron of justice, and I could probably hit them up for a free drink.

Re:rly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848197)

Thank you Jack Handy.

The Ringing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848159)

http://theringingmovie.com [theringingmovie.com]

BS (-1, Offtopic)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848162)

...for Time Warner, which owns CNN, to charge a premium if I want to watch Fox News on my computer.

Utter BS. I live in Austin, TX whom TimeWarner is my ISP. As such, I watch streaming video on Fox News website all the time.

Way to go!!! Spread the FUD baby! *sigh*

Re:BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848177)

analogy
n. pl. analogies

      1.
                  1. Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar.
                  2. A comparison based on such similarity. See Synonyms at likeness.

Re:BS (1)

topper24hours (853597) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848200)

Take every comment on Slashdot literally? You must be new here...

Re:BS (0, Troll)

Morky (577776) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848309)

Uh, he watches Fox News. 'Nuff said.

Mod parent up. (1)

uofitorn (804157) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848273)

Slashdot is great for many things. However, the general consensus among many, especially those whose enlightened opinions and interesting comments would be welcome here, is that most Slashdot articles are FUD-mongering themselves.

Re:BS (1)

QuasiDon (215923) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848306)

I think the article was pointing out that this is a possibility, not that they were doing it. The article was pointing out the potential dangers now that they can distinguish the types of traffic, and even deteriorate the quality if they want.

Possibilities. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848421)

It is also possible that you personally will be attacked by terrorists, struck by a extinction level asteroid, infected with bird flu, blown up by a volcano, swallowed by an earthquake and washed clean by a tsunami. But the likelihood of any of these is sufficiently slim that, were I to post such an article, I would be ridiculed for my extreme paranoia. This article is no different.

The article's author has taken events from foreign nations with vastly different infrastructures, business climates and telecom regulations and used them to jump to extreme and far fetched "conclusions" that are quite ridiculous.

Put simply the article is pure unadulterated FUD. There is no analogy here.

Re:BS (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848324)

...for Time Warner, which owns CNN, to charge a premium if I want to watch Fox News on my computer. Utter BS. I live in Austin, TX whom TimeWarner is my ISP. As such, I watch streaming video on Fox News website all the time. Way to go!!! Spread the FUD baby! *sigh*

Welcome to the wonderful world of analogy. TFS(ummary) is not claiming that TimeWarner is interfering with Fox News traffic. It is suggesting that such a scenario would be wrong, and anti-competative, just like foriegn telephone companies blocking VoIP traffic is.

Re:BS (1)

uofitorn (804157) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848368)

Just like the analogies MS uses when comparing the TCO of Windows to Linux. Just because it's an analogy doesn't mean it's not FUD.

Re:BS (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848353)

...for Time Warner, which owns CNN, to charge a premium if I want to watch Fox News on my computer.

That would be an idiot tax, not a premium.

Don't mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848392)

Sigh. It's not saying this happened or was going to happen. It just said that stopping VOIP was _like_ this. It's called a simile. I'll skip the obligitory joke about not understanding this and watching Fox News all the time.

Steve

Re:BS (1)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848560)

I watch streaming video on Fox News website all the time.

And unlike watching fox news on most televisions, when you watch it via streaming, Fox watches you back. You could be getting 'customized' news already and wouldn't even know it.

Bell? (5, Funny)

Thu25245 (801369) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848166)

phone companies in France, Germany, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have announced...Gotta love Ma Bell.

Which RBOCs would those be? BellFrance, German Bell, and Mideast Bell?

By Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848315)

it makes possible digital wiretaps, a capability that carriers are required by law to have

which law would that be? French Wiretap law ?, German Spyonme law ? Saudi ListenIN Law ? European SniffPacket Law ?

the summmary is just incoherant babble from an American who doesn't seem to of grasped the concept of American laws do not apply in the rest of the world, just because USA is used to their totalitarian facist goverment spying on them and has laws to enable them to do it doesnt mean the rest of the world has, ..sheesh and people wonder why the word "ignorance" comes up in the same sentence as "American" much more frequently thesedays, as they say, some people really need to get out more.

Re:Bell? (1)

pomo monster (873962) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848461)

It was just a throwaway comment, like "stand up to the Man." The Man's everywhere, and everywhere there's the phone, there's Ma Bell. Don't freak out about it.

Re:Bell? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848478)

Which 'Man' are you talking about?

What me Worry about the Man (1)

djdavetrouble (442175) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848553)

Which 'Man' are you talking about?

Round these parts, we are talking about Alfred E. NewMAN But there are those who say we are MAD ! [dccomics.com] Thats just humor in a jugular vein, though....

In a related story...... (4, Informative)

8127972 (73495) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848167)

.... Some phone companies in Canada are tying to brand their services so that they don't sound like they're VoIP because of the negativity associated with these services.

http://www.globetechnology.com/servlet/ArticleNews /TPStory/LAC/20051020/TWVOIP20/TPTechnology/?query =voip [globetechnology.com]

Re:In a related story...... (2, Insightful)

gmack (197796) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848548)

How sad... If they only dropped their long distance rates people wouldn't care about "digital phone". I don't see what difference the underlying medium makes to their costs at all. Meanwhile primus has introduced a new long distance package that's as cheap as vonage. I can have primus phone service and unlimited North american long distance for $53 CDN so why exactly do I need a VOIP service on top of that? $53 - $27 for the phone service makes the long distance portion of that $26. Vonage charges $39.99 for something of lower quality. I'm seriously considering it.

Lets all give a big hug to the phone companies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848171)

We call all feel safe that the evil that goes around on the internet will now be zapped out of existance by the all knowing phone companies.

Elvis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848174)

Can they change my voice in real-time to sound like Elvis?
Thank you very much.

Re:Elvis? (1)

Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848495)

uh huh!

This will spur encrypted VoIP... (5, Insightful)

markana (152984) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848175)

As if it wasn't on the way anyway...

The carriers will then have a choice: let the encrypted traffic through, or restrict their customer's Internet use to only approved (and monitored) traffic.

It will be interesting to see which option various countries choose...

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (5, Insightful)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848239)

The thing is, if you decide to ban encrypted traffic, you may as well say goodbye to internet commerce. All on-line purchases are done trough secure connections. I don't think any western country is going to ban encrypted traffic anytime soon. Online sellers are well established and they won't let it happen.

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (2, Interesting)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848240)

They could then just add some jitter to any unrecognized (i.e. encrypted) traffic, thus making the connection useless for any two-way voice streams. They don't have to block the connection entirely, and most services are not interactive and wouldn't notice the difference.

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (4, Interesting)

jrockway (229604) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848246)

Skype is encrypted and P2P. Yet they can still block it.

Also, if your VoIP service ever uses real phone lines, the telco can easily block it.

If this happened in the US, though, it would be an illegal abuse of their monopoly powers. When they start censoring certain data, they lose their common carrier status as well, so they become liable for all the child porn, viruses, illegal movie downloads, etc. that they transfer. Probably not a road they want to go down.

However, I guess cable companies in the US aren't common carriers, so they can (and do) block other VoIP. Someone needs to sue them for this -- it's absolutely ridiculous. When you break part of the Internet, you aren't an ISP anymore. You're a Content That We Cram Up Your Ass Service Provider... just like cable companies are already.

Personally, I use Speakeasy DSL which does nothing but route bits to and from my machine. That's the way the Internet should be!

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (4, Interesting)

Nogami_Saeko (466595) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848345)

Skype doesn't use random ports and protocols does it? It needs to handshake the two programs before the encrypted data transfer starts, which probably makes it relatively easy to block at the router level.

That said, it shouldn't be impossible to masquerade VOIP data as something like a first-person shooter data stream (many of which have voice-chat already integrated), or by some other means that would result in the ISP/Telco blocking legitimate users as well and raising their angst level.

Fighting technology is a losing proposition for conventional telcos, so they better find a way to work with users rather than against them...

N.

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (2, Insightful)

Loonacy (459630) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848455)

would result in the ISP/Telco blocking legitimate users as well

Are you suggesting that VOIP isn't legitimate?

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (1)

rebelcan (918087) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848543)

He might be trying to make the point that the telco's think that VOIP isn't legitimate, despite what everybody ( at least the /. crowd ) else thinks.

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (2, Insightful)

shakah (78118) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848409)

Skype is encrypted...
It still uses RTP as the protocol though, doesn't it? Though the payload may be encrypted, the packets are probably easily identified by that protocol.

A more insidious approach would be for the ISP to "traffic shape" and drop every nth RTP packet -- it wouldn't take much to degrade voice quality.

what if they break it... (2, Interesting)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848424)

By way of latency. little more than 300milliseconds, and you can kiss VoIP goodbye. This is a problem I'm having using VoIP thru cable. I'm going to switch to DSL and see if it fixes the problem and delivers quality such that I don't get complaints.

If the cable companies introduce latency on purpose to disrupt VoIP I could see that it could result in a litigation, but what if it just happens to be inherent in the network? Or could be made inherent? With high latency, you don't break the internet, you just cripple time dependant communications.

But then online games suffer and Microsoft... (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848452)

If they increase latency, online games start to suffer - and if Microsoft finds out it is happening they bring down the mightly legal hammer.

But I really don't think the cable companies are sophisticaed enough to pull this out wihtout breaking other things as well.

Re:But then online games suffer and Microsoft... (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848466)

Good point, I don't participate in online games. Unless you count slashdot as a game of sorts.

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848263)

restrict their customer's Internet use to only approved (and monitored) traffic.

Not hard to do in Saudi Arabia.

Re:This will spur encrypted VoIP... (1)

Jacco de Leeuw (4646) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848523)

Use Google's VPN [google.com] and the telco won't be able to detect the VOIP. Of course, the NSA^H^H^HGoogle will be listening in to your call, but hey, you can't have everything...

Encryption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848178)

Will it still work if the traffic is encrypted?

What would the U.N. think of this? (1, Insightful)

RentonSentinel (906700) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848179)

The U.N. is comprised of many of these repressive anti-freedom regimes. Thankfully, they only control what happens within their borders.

To all slashdotters who want U.N. control of the internet- behold, internationalization and diversity prove inferior to plain old fashioned American ideals yet again.

Re:What would the U.N. think of this? (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848285)

Why do you think they want control of the Internet? The only reasons that make sense is so they can more effectively censor and filter internet content.

I don't expect the United Nations to do anything to stop these countries from blocking VoIP calls. Thus, why would we expect them to do anything about internet censorship?

Re:What would the U.N. think of this? (4, Insightful)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848317)

To all slashdotters who want U.N. control of the internet- behold, internationalization and diversity prove inferior to plain old fashioned American ideals yet again.

What the fuck are you on about? These are foreign corporations that want to screw all the consumers, as usual, and as pioneered by the, oh-so-democratically great US corporations. It is the corporations which are the enemy here and the UN has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this. Furthermore, corporate sponsored entities, the WTO and WIPO do have everything to do with this, and yet, somehow, I do see brainwashed tools shreeking at the top of their lungs about the UN and not them.

It is a democratic duty of every citizen of any democratic nation, be it US, Canada, France, Germany or any other to oppose corporatists at every turn, because corporatism and democracy are mutually exclusive.

Re:What would the U.N. think of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848471)

Amen to that! When will people realize that money is power, and that the large corporations are amassing a disgusting amount of money and essentially "winning" the game of capitalism?

Re:What would the U.N. think of this? (3, Insightful)

ahillen (45680) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848454)

The U.N. is comprised of many of these repressive anti-freedom regimes.

Well, at least as far as Germany and France are concerned, the "regimes" mentionend in the article are Vodafone and SFR, both cell phone providers. I can asure you that neither of them is member of the UN.

Legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848180)

Is this legally possible? To sell things in a bundle without offering the same items unbundled?

(e.g., avoid the usage of IP-phones of rival makers)

I guess this illegal in my country (Brasil).

How? (1)

CypherXero (798440) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848189)

So, tell me, how exactly do they plan on blocking 1 of 65,000+ ports? I mean, if you block a port that disables VoIP, doesn't it stand that VoIP apps will just use ANOTHER port? Plus, if it comes to it, there's always the VPN/Proxy solution to get around it.

Other Backlash, Thank TiVo? (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848191)

Heineken will end TV adverts in the UK due to perception of declining connection with the core market, 18-26 year olds. It was mentioned on the BBC World Service that a possible further consideration was the use of Sky+ and TiVo which allow viewers to skip commercials. It could also be that the core group spend more time on the internet than watching TV.

So less return on television advertising, thanks to the evolution of technology, and what future does this have for television entertainment, if the place to advertise isn't the tube? Product placement, I suppose. Let's have a surreptitious party on the show with people having what is undeniably a very good time and feature Heineken cans/bottles, perhaps have an actor say, "this Heineken beer is excellent, much more flavourful then other leading brands."

Harlo Wilcox, Don Wilson and Bill Goodwin, your kind we shall meet again.

Re:Other Backlash, Thank TiVo? (1)

justasecond (789358) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848552)

Holy *%#@! How many slashdotters would know Harlo Wilcox and Don Wilson? (Bill Goodwin even I don't know). You're an OTR fan?

Outlaw CLECs (0, Redundant)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848203)

Why don't they just outlaw VOIP CLECs that connect to their internal phone networks? This would be much easier that trying to filter packets.

Good bye ma bell (2, Insightful)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848215)

They have been ripping us off for years because of their monopoly. Now they must compete or dye. Me, I already don't use the local telco and haven't looked back.

Good bye ma bell.... don't need you.

Re:Good bye ma bell (1)

GecKo213 (890491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848346)

Now they must compete or dye.

What does "To take on or impart color" or dye [answers.com] have to do with VoIP? I think the proper word should be "Die" or cease living [answers.com] is really what you're after here. I don't mean to be picky, but that made me feel weird when I read it. It had to be corrected... Thank you.

Nah, you're reading it wrong. (1)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848546)

He meant "dye," as in "tie-dye." He want the Bells to become a bunch of peaceniks, and tie-dyeing their clothing is the first step.

Right on, brother. Give peace a chance.
Flower power over IP.

Re:Good bye ma bell (1)

KC7GR (473279) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848498)

And what color would this 'dye' be? ;-)

More seriously... Sure, you don't need Ma Bell... Until you try to dial 911 for a heart attack or some similar nastiness from your VoIP line, and the call ends up in a dispatch center three states over. Seconds really do count in an emergency, and trying to get the call back to the right place is going to eat plenty of them.

And how about that cool VoIP phone? Works great... as long as you have AC power handy. No, much better than the old POTS phones, which were not at all dependent on your local power, and work as long as the central office has its power (and it will... have you ever seen the battery bank for a typical CO? I have. Their generators are no slouch either).

I predict much finger-pointing, harsh words, and saber-rattling will come out of this fracas, and the end result will most likely benefit no one. What a joke...

Its called a Term of Service (5, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848220)

For instance, Cox Cable @Home explicitly says "No VPNs", but many users do anyway. It would be a simple matter for them to block IPSec traffic, or even regular UDP/500 traffic. (yes, there are SSL VPNs, blah blah blah). And you couldn't complain, because you signed the contract.

In other countries, not even Soviet Russia, there are State-owned Telcos, which have implicit or explicit Terms of Service. I'm sure the Telco in Saudi Arabia says things like "no porn, no homosexual activity, nothing critical of Islam" etc. They ALSO probably say "no VoIP".

Don't like it? Don't use the service... oh wait, you have to, because its a State owned monopoly. Oh well, strive for political change then.

Re:Its called a Term of Service (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848464)

The actual process for EULA reform seems to be:
  • company publishes crazy EULA, and actually enforces it
  • technical press notes insanity, writes story, warning readers to avoid product
  • non-technical press reprints the story
  • company realises the story hasn't reached most end cusomters yet, but it's only a matter of time, so they change quickly change their EULA
  • ... process repeats every time a company starts enforcing crazy EULAs
Until a company actually enforces a EULA, it's still a somewhat theoretical problem... news places can't always print a story saying "Crazy EULA #1,942,682 released, film at 11" because people won't pay attention.

I'm not sure how those countries laws are worded (1, Redundant)

The Woodworker (723841) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848223)

But wouldn't this affect their status as a common carrier? IANAL, so I'm actually wondering how this applies.

Nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848228)

When I was going to school in the Caribbean, we used to use Dialpad as a means of keeping touch with family and friends in the United States. We were provided free wireless access on a 10mbps connection to the school. When Dialpad caught on, Cable & Wireless (the national ISP and phone company) started blocking the ports Dialpad worked on. They were getting upset that students at the school were not buying pre-paid phone cards to use with their cellular phones. The backstory is that Cable & Wireless charges a deposit of nearly US$250 and phone service itself is extremely expensive so most students opt to get a pre-paid GSM cell phone which they can refill as necessary. Dialpad was cutting into their profits so they blocked it. It was chaotic on campus for quite some time and Dialpad tried to what they could but Cable & Wireless would always block the new ports. What this did is allow other services to work because Cable & Wireless couldn't block everything. It's unfortunate but companies do it. I hope that VoIP companies increase the encryption on the calls so wiretapping goes away.

secure VPN and PHPhone to the rescue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848234)

I seem to recall "PHP Phone" from a few years back. If it's still maintained, it's a viable contender to beat this.
Of course, encryption is probably also illegal in many of those countries.

There's always the Chinese firewall-busting method of a secure VPN tunnel to some bandwidth in the USA or "free" Europe. Hopefully the extra bottleneck wouldn't be too horrendus, since the majority of Internet traffic would be routed through there anyway.

Fight Fire WIth Fire? (2, Funny)

Bodysurf (645983) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848236)

# ping -f narus.com

Re:Fight Fire WIth Fire? (1)

lixee (863589) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848298)

Better yet. Link their website in a /. article.

Re:Fight Fire WIth Fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848332)

Nah, their uber duper software would just filter it out.

I don't think that would fly in the US (1)

confusion (14388) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848237)

Wasn't there recently a /. article about a court case that ruled that ISP's can't block access to certain sites because they 'compete' with said ISP?

Besides, if you like foxnews, comcast is the most people get is already, albeit over cable tv, not internet.

I really hope we don't see this deterioration of the internet, though.

Jerry
http://www.cyvin.org/ [cyvin.org]

Re:I don't think that would fly in the US (1, Flamebait)

Spetiam (671180) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848333)

I really hope we don't see this deterioration of the internet, though.

Please bear in mind that Germany, France, et al. are the same countries that are trying, through the UN, to forcibly take control of the internet's root servers.

I'm not trying to start a flame war, but I do want to emphasize that the structure of the internet today makes it very easy for powerful organizations (governments, in particular, but telcos in this case) to regulate and control the flow of information, no matter how legitimate.

Common carrier status? (3, Interesting)

strider3700 (109874) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848238)

I thought all of the phone companies qualify as common carriers and are not responsible for whats on their networks because they can't and shouldn't control it. Now that they have filtering ability for somethings they should be charged for every copied song and every piece of child porn moving on their wires.

Re:Common carrier status? (2, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848379)

I thought all of the phone companies qualify as common carriers and are not responsible for whats on their networks because they can't and shouldn't control it ...
... , in the United States of America.

Re:Common carrier status? (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848401)

Then they'll just buy new laws that suit them better.

Similar article in the WSJ (4, Informative)

Strudelkugel (594414) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848252)


Today's Wall Street Journal Online [wsj.com] also has an article. It discusses the attempts US domestic carriers are making to block third party services, as well as limiting file sharing and other "hi bandwidth" uses. Fortunately the FCC has prevented the major carriers from blocking independent VOIP providers, but Europeans evidently have a different view, which is weird since our consumer internet connectivity sucks compared to theirs, let alone Asia.

Just shows what an overpriced cash cow voice is now.

slapped and fined (1)

mqx (792882) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848264)


If they try to do this, you can be sure that the competition authorities will slap and fine them over it. Complain as you will about EU or national authorities, but as we've seen with Microsoft ruling, they are quite active on anti-competitive issues, and a teleco that tries to block VOIP so as to ensure the the customer has to use the telco services and can't choose to use a lower priced alternative service will find itself in lots of trouble.

Wiretaps? (3, Funny)

slashmojo (818930) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848277)

It makes possible digital wiretaps, a capability that carriers are required by law to have. However, these positive applications for Narus's software may not be enough to make Internet users warm to its use.

Wiretaps are a positive feature for users? No doubt governments/law enforcement get very warm and tingly over wiretaps but I can't see users warming to it quite so much.

Now spyware on the other hand, thats something that really does get users hot and bothered! ;)

What good does it really do to block... (1)

GecKo213 (890491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848278)

VoIP calls? How can the entire country say that they're going to block VoIP calls? What good can it possibly accomplish? I'm curious why any of you think they may do this? Are they wanting to get a piece of the pie and then allow the calls? This just confuses me. I realize business doesn't want people to have it's products or services for free, but to shut down a phone network to people who say couldn't afford to call their family in Germany so they get Skype and then can use voice to communicate is rediculous to me!

Re:What good does it really do to block... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848395)

VoIP calls? How can the entire country say that they're going to block VoIP calls? What good can it possibly accomplish?

Here in Australia the main telco [telstra.com] is majority owned by the Federal Government. The share price is crashing because if people getting VOIP or mobiles and this is impacting Government revenue forecasts.

Currently we have a whole lot of anti terrorist legislation about to be passed, with some features which take rights away from normal people suspected of being terrorists.

If the security services went to the Government and said that this VOIP stuff is enabling (suspected) terrorists to evade wiretaps, then perhaps this inconvenient service could be made to go away.

That is how I see it happening, anyway.

Re:What good does it really do to block... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848545)

How can the entire country say that they're going to block VoIP calls?

As far as Germany is concerned, this is not about an entire country blocking VoIP. The article specifically talks about Vodafone, one of the four cell phone providers. This has nothing to do with e.g. fixed line DSL connections.

Monopolies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848280)

These companies have state sanctioned/enforced monopolies and are trying to leverage it.

Let the United Nations Control V.O.I.P. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848337)

An article from the online edition of IEEE Spectrum says phone companies in France, Germany, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have announced they will block VoIP calls on their networks.

Are phone companies in those countries run by their governments?

Time for strong encryption. (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848338)

Good encryption should prevent a third party from determining any information about the payload. Bury all the protocol details in the data, initiate the session with a completely innocuous public-key encrypted exchange of symmetric keys, and proceed.

If carriers want to block all encrypted traffic, well...that's a whole different problem.

Ebay (1)

certsoft (442059) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848354)

Ebay just paid how much for Skype, like 3 or 4 billion? I wonder how long before Skype and others figure out a way around the detection algorithms.

Skype? (1)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848365)

I was under the impressiont that skype could not be blocked, since the packets are all encrypted and contain no identifying information.

China's National Networks... (3, Informative)

theCSapprentice (921974) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848371)

Check out Narus's homepage...http://www.narus.com/ [narus.com]

Now tell me that a company certified for China's National Networks is who we want to secure the general internet. Its almost as if they are saying YES to censorship and control. I'm not saying security is a bad thing, but pick how you do it with care...

Tried in Norway and Failed (4, Interesting)

johnjaydk (584895) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848376)

Telenor (old Norway monopoly) tried blocking Skype and failed in a big way. The customers revolted and wanted Skype unblocked. Telenor had to reverse and unblock Skype. Major publicity bummer.

I work in one of these oldfashioned phone companies. Due to our location international charges is a large part of our intake. Therefore we dont like Skype much. In fact we'd like this whole VoIP thing to be un-invented.

We tried looking into blocking and it's bad karma all the way. Trust me, the old guys loved the idea but the publicity would kill us. In the end we have to do VoIP ourself. Better to loose business to yourself than to somebody else. This of course provides me with interesting work so I'm not complaining ;-)

Re:Tried in Norway and Failed (1)

sploxx (622853) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848509)

In fact we'd like this whole VoIP thing to be un-invented.
I hope you can still seperate your personal and your company's opinion!

Thank you (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848531)

For informing us that the bell(s) are beginning to see the light. One of the first things they could do to prevent migration to VoIP is to include all the extra features like caller ID and other value added features in with basic phone service. VoIP is the future of telecommunications. It runs on data networks, and we all know data networks aren't going away anytime soon.

How is this done...? (1)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848394)

How is this software doing this? I mean, by reading about this I am imagining some form of stateful packet inspection. Wouldn't such inspection compromise the speed of the whole network? I remember such ideas being bandied about a long time ago for "detecting" pirated software transfers and such, but I also remember the argument being that it couldn't be done without compromising the speed of the entire network. Does it work like QOS routers, but in software? I am just curious how they are doing this without making life hell for everyone else on the network (because they have to inspect *every* packet)...?

Sort Of... www.uncoverip.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848419)

Lame www.uncoverip.com [uncoverip.com]

Just another arguement for a global wireless mesh (1)

Safe Sex Goddess (910415) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848426)

Anyone interested in forming an open source non-profit to get the ball rolling on this wireless mesh hardware to replace the internet?

I can type 85 WPM and answer phones!

Can we make a 1st amendment exception? (0, Troll)

hellfire (86129) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848428)

or for Time Warner, which owns CNN, to charge a premium if I want to watch Fox News on my computer.

That may not necessarily be a bad thing. Anything that keeps idiots from watching people who take advantage of idiots is fine by me.

it's a sad sad day when American companies do this (1)

Hoohoodilly (722397) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848457)

This is on the level of the article a few days ago about US companies helping China and other countries with their Internet content-blocking abilities. My question is who in their right mind would work for a company that writes software limiting consumer rights?

I think this really boils down to greed, which is more and more the motivating force in capitalism today. Can't we all just get along, and go back to the days when innovation was that driving force? Some companies don't have any values or ethics these days and in this case probably saw a product they could market to these fascists. Maybe I should write my Congressman about making it illegal for US companies help deteriorate basic civil and human rights. Or maybe that advocacy group is doing just that.

PC to PC (1)

Psx29 (538840) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848468)

Maybe I didn't read through the article well enough but what about calls that only go over the internet will these be blocked as well?

I smell a big lawsuit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848486)

... if any ISP were to start doing this.

The ISPs advertise internet service. You can get them under false advertising laws.

A more likely scenario is the ISPs start delaying & dropping these packets. That way the user will be more likely to blame the voip provider...

They'd better not.... (2, Insightful)

dslauson (914147) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848533)

The only phone service in my house is Vonage. If my ISP were to try to block or restrict that, you'd better believe I wouldn't be switching over to their phone service. I'd be getting a new ISP.

So, if it's an all (buy their phone service AND their internet access) or nothing kind of thing, from me they'll get nothing.

Germany (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848536)

Having the misfortune to live in Germany, I can't say that I am surprised to see that German Telecom providers (namely Deutsche Telekom (DT)) acting in a monopolistic way. German companies often act in this way as they lack the flexibility to compete internationally due to mindnumbing quantities of Red Tape and restrictive labor laws. Somehow German companies have their own way of interpreting laws about cartels and getting away with it.

What I am surprised about, is that DT has the ability to use this technology to stop VoIP. I thought they were the finest and last steam powered telephone company in the world. Dealing with these guys is like being stuck in the Monty Python Gas Board sketch.

Since Ebay has such a big presence in Germany it could be that they will lobby to get this practice changed as it would impact their plans to sell everyone's Skype details to the highest bidder.

And as for France... surely it's a good thing that they can't call anyone?

So, maybe banning VoIP ain't soooo bad .....

Can I disagree with this and still be a liberal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13848550)

As a Liberal, I value freedom. These networks should have the freedom to do business however they please. But of course, I don't like this at all. Can I still be a Liberal and despise this?

steganography (2, Insightful)

MoFoQ (584566) | more than 8 years ago | (#13848551)

This will probably lead to some sort of packet steganography and encryption which will make digital taps harder to do and "the terrorists will win."

Of course, spoofing the packets to look like non-VoIP packets might be a workaround.

It's all a cat-and-mouse game until someone files a lawsuit.
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