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FCC Probing Comcast over VoIP Service

FCC Probing Comcast over VoIP Service

The Federal Communications Commission is looking into whether Comcast, the nation’s largest cable television operator, is discriminating against VoIP operators whose call traffic transits Comcast’s network. In a letter to Comcast (PDF), the agency has asked the company to clarify discrepancies between Comcast’s filings with the FCC describing its broadband management practices and the Comcast’s actual advertised service.

Comcast describes its own VoIP product offering as riding on a separate facilities-based IP phone service that isn’t subject to Comcast’s network management policies. However, Comcast’s online support documents and FAQs indicate third-party VoIP services are subject to the same network management policies as any other Internet traffic and, therefore, may sound “choppy.”

“We request that Comcast explain why it omitted from its filings with the Commission the distinct effects that Comcast’s new network management technique has on Comcast’s VoIP offering versus those of its competitors,” wrote Kathryn Zachem, vice president of regulatory affairs for the FCC, and Matthew Berry, FCC general counsel. “We also ask that you provide a detailed justification for Comcast’s disparate treatment of its own VoIP service as compared to that offered by other VoIP providers on its network.”

Comcast offers digital VoIP voice services as a service alongside broadband Internet and cable television in a “triple-play” of consumer services, often offering steep initial discounts in order to convince customers to switch from competing Internet, television, and phone providers.

The FCC also wants to know how Comcast’s VoIP offering is “facilities-based,” since that would seem to make it subject to regulation and intercarrier compensation fees.

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