Telcos, MSOs, and VoIP Innovation
Andy points to an excellent piece earlier this month from Robert X. Cringely on the problems independent VoIPs may face (or are, maybe, already facing) with broadband network operators (cable or telco). He suggests, based on talks with unnamed buddies, that instead of trying the blunt, artless approach of outright port blocking, the networks will resort to some fancy packet-fiddling to slow and degrade traffic from VoIPs.
Implicit in Cringely's analysis is both a damning critique of the telco incumbents and their cable cousins and a familiar take on what the VoIP startups ought to be doing to fight back:
"This is the beginning of a web services war where the advantage lies almost entirely with the broadband service provider. It starts with VoIP but I am sure will move on to movies and music, too. The incumbent suddenly has a real, unassailable advantage. If Vonage (or CinemaNow or even Bit Torrent) wants to play along, that's fine, but they'll see most of their profits going to Comcast.
"What's sad about this for me is that I fear it will lead to an end (or certainly a slowing-down) of innovation in VoIP and similar services. The telcos and cable companies will offer generic VoIP service and only change it if some startup comes along offering better features.
"I'm not sure there is much that can be done about this impending counter-reformation, either. Of course, telephone and cable companies in the U.S. tend to be regulated monopolies, so it probably will be possible to lobby politically against these big boys, but I doubt that will do much good.
"It would be better, I think, for the pure VoIP companies to be lighter on their technical feet, and so bring new services to market faster than the telcos and cable companies can even react."