Internet-Calling-CustomersVoIP users around the world are facing a growing problem – their calls are being blocked by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) without their knowledge.  Users are finding it difficult to connect their calls because the telecom companies seem to be controlling or blocking the online VoIP traffic. During the early phase of VoIP telephony, Internet phones encountered problems with call quality but it has been overcome through recent technological updates.  However, off late, VoIP service providers are flooded with complaints that majority of their calls are either being blocked or they are experiencing poor call quality. Beneath all these problems lies a malicious effort by the telecom companies (obviously in collusion with the ISPs) that want to do away with competition by sabotaging VoIP traffic.

There are about 1.5 million VoIP users in the US and they use the Internet phones to make calls, which they found to be both cheap and efficient. Recently, many of them have started to experience a steady fall in the quality of service. Majority of the calls don’t get connected, or, when connected, the audio quality is extremely poor and incomprehensible. When users ran applications to detect packet loss, they were offended to find that massive latency and data loss between the modem and ISP. This is only the start of their ordeal because when they contacted their ISPs, the VoIP customers were informed that their ISPs did not support any of the 3rd party VoIP services.

This VoIP related issue is not isolated to the US only as there are many VoIP users in countries such as UK, France, Japan and even Qatar who are experiencing similar problems. VoIP is a great technology for the users but for the telecom operators around the world, it might be a huge revenue challenge. Thus, they seem to have declared an all out war against VoIP and carrying out backdoor methods to arrest its growth.    

The most surprising part of this entire affair is that in none of the countries it is illegal to block or degrade VoIP traffic. Major telecom providers around the world are using this legal window to specifically target the VoIP traffic.

Well, everything is not bad news in the VoIP domain as there are specific laws being framed in various countries in order to safeguard the interests of both VoIP providers and users. Lawmakers in the UK are taking up the role of a bellwether as they are creating a report on VoIP traffic blocking and how this move by the ISPs is affecting the service provided by the VoIP providers.

Telecom operators are anxious about the bandwidth encroachment by traffic that in the end does not generate any revenue for them. They are trying to aggressively block the VoIP traffic along with various other traffic as it is not yet illegal to do this anywhere, including the US.  The telephone companies and ISPs often cite the example of Skype, which has the reputation of forming super nodes on the network and eating up bandwidth. Many IT managers and network security consultants are apprehensive about the use of Skype as it allegedly opens up a new encrypted tunnel in the network to create the super node and make the VoIP calls. There are independent reports that suggest that Skype can even saturate a 100 Mbps line!

How the blocking is carried out

Blocking the traffic over the IP network is generally carried out by blocking the ports or preventing access to selected IP addresses. However, when it comes to Skype traffic, it becomes really tough to detect it. The primary reason behind this is that Skype uses random combinations when it comes to ports and IP addresses, which helps it to bypass the traditional filters.    

About The Author

Tanya Williams is excited with the new technologies that are threatening to change the way we stay in touch and communicate, particular in business. She works with companies that are introducing these technologies to make understanding them easy for regular people.