Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 8th 2014 Contents A32
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Digicel T&T quietly dropped a bomb on Saturday
morning, with a notice on its Web site that "effective
immediately, unlicensed VoIP services are blocked
on its network."
The company named four specific services which
had, in fact, been blocked hours before, Tango, Viber,
Nimbuzz and Fring.
Digicel had moved quickly after instituting the ban
in Haiti barely two weeks before, moving on to Jamaica
and over the weekend, T&T.
I posed four questions to the company s commu-
nications manager, Penny Gomez, in the wake of that
announcement, which notably left out more common-
place and well-known VoIP software in regular use in
Is the list of services on Digicel s Web site conclusive
and fulsome or will any "unlicensed" VoIP service be
banned as well?
Skype is the most widely used VoIP software in
T&T. Is the use of that service banned as well?
Does Digicel have an established procedure for a
VoIP product to be licensed for use on the network?
Does Digicel have hard numbers or statistics that
demonstrate how VoIP products are being used on its
Digicel responded with an expansion of its original
statement (http://ow.ly/yPTQP), noting the follow-
• At the moment, all unlicenced phone number-
based VoIP services are blocked.
• It is "actively considering the position of all unli-
censed VoIP operators in each of its markets along
with the nature of the operators.
• "Viber has an interconnect arrangement with
Digicel but "steadfastly refuses to pay these amounts
• Implying that other invoices have been sent, the
company called "on these companies to pay the out-
standing invoices sent to them."
The company s full statement is here:
Viber has since responded to Digicel s statement
bluntly, saying "They are smoking." An e-mail to
Microsoft s Skype division about licensing on Digicel s
network over the weekend brought no response in time
for this column.
The Voice over Internet Protocol allows phone calls
to be packaged and transmitted on the Internet. The
technology has been in use for more than a decade,
but faster Internet backbones have brought dramatic
improvements and made it a preferred system for trans-
ferring call data, even by ISPs.
Flow s phone service, for instance, is VoIP-based,
but like Skype, is considered a second-generation VoIP
solution, maintaining connectivity with the public
switched telephone network (PSTN). Third-generation
networks like Google Talk and Facebook s call con-
nections dispense with PSTN connectivity to establish
direct domain-to-domain links using IP only, usually
via a Web page.
What s been notable is the lack of general concern
about the loss of these specific services and the greater
sense that something s fundamentally wrong with the
company s position.
On the T&T Computer Society s mailing list, concerns
were raised about the technical underpinnings of the
claim, with experienced practitioners arguing that VoIP
services will claim 20kbps of a user s connection, far
less than a YouTube video and pondering
whether an issue of Net neutrality is arising
from the company s action.
That would bring T&T into alignment with
international concerns about businesses and
service providers who are seeking to create
a fast lane for the Internet, tiering access to
services to favour those willing to pay more.
The proposed system would allow busi-
nesses to harvest more money but would
introduce filtering and balkanisation of pro-
tocols to the open Internet.
In taking its action against the VoIP com-
panies, Digicel T&T has brought the issue
home to this country, subtly changing its role
from a common carrier to a content gate-
keeper, willing to discriminate between the
services allowed on its networks.
Opponents to a tiered Internet have created
a Web site to articulate those concerns
TSTT s brief comment on the matter
(http://ow.ly/yQ13n) seemed to side with Net
neutrality: "Customers pay us a subscription
fee for this access and once customers have
bought data services from bmobile, customers
determine how they wish to use their data."
A more definitive statement on the matter
is still to come from the Telecommunications
Authority of T&T, which needs to step up
from the vaguely disapproving comments of
the weekend with a clear statement on this
country s position on Net neutrality.
The flap about VoIP
Internet is under
to block some
brings that issue
home to T&T.
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