Comcast: We Won't Block VoIP Traffic. (Not That We Ever Have)

Includes: CMCSA, VG
by: Sam Gustin

I'm scratching my head at Comcast's announcement yesterday that it has reached a "collaborative agreement" with voice-over-IP provider Vonage (NYSE:VG).

The companies said in a statement that the agreement is designed "to ensure that network management techniques are chosen that effectively balance the need to avoid network congestion with the need to ensure that over-the-top VoIP services like Vonage work well for consumers."

What's puzzling about the announcement is that Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), which offers a rival voice-over-IP offering, has long maintained that it doesn't block or degrade voice-over-IP traffic, despite being accused of doing so.

As the company itself notes, "This is the latest in a series of announcements related to Comcast's network management practices that demonstrate the company's commitment to ensure that its customers' ability to use any application or access any content they choose while avoiding network congestion situations that could affect the consumer experience."

Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, which filed the original complaint against Comcast, wasn't buying what the company was selling yesterday.

"We are baffled as to why it was necessary for Vonage to strike a network management agreement with Comcast to guarantee that their services are not degraded or blocked," Ammori said in a statement. "Such anti-competitive, anti-consumer practices are already against the law. And beyond that, Comcast has been on the record as saying that they do nothing to deter their customers' use of VoIP."

If that's the case, why the need for yesterday's announcement?