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VoIP - Why it is a bad idea

Chuq is running an article on ISPs that block Voice-Over-IP connections.

I'm a little confused that this surprised anyone. I mean, think about VoIP and how it works:

Whenever you perform a phone call (be it traditional landline or VoIP) you need a carrier medium connecting you to the other end. With VoIP, this medium has simply been changed to the Internet.

Now, telephone is so expensive because the entire line between you and your partner has to be rented by your phone company. OTOH, on the Internet, long stretches of the lines are paid for by Universities or big companies, while others are paid for by your ISP. While your ISP will charge you for your use of their lines, and you'll also pay your phone or cable company to provide the phone line to your ISP.

In the early days of the internet, there weren't many people on the net, so it wasn't a problem if your data also used a few of the University's lines. This has become more of a problem today, where e.g. Mannheim University is very conscious of bandwidth used by its students, because it has to pay for its internet lines and isn't interested in financing students' porn movie collection.

Enter VoIP. Sound is one of the data types on the net that uses a lot of bandwidth. Phone calls are something people make a lot every day. And now companies are actually advertising the lower phone bill you incur when using them. What essentially happens here is that these companies' business model relies on the University and other benefactors to the internet paying for the part of the phone bill they don't get charged for, so they can charge you less.

Or to say it more pointedly: Part of your VoIP phone bill is being paid by your taxes. To a degree, part of it is also being paid by all customers of your ISP, who usually distributes the cost of additional hardware needed to handle all that bandwidth and get connected to the 'net across all customers.

In the end, what I think will happen is this:

  • Internet connectivity will become more expensive, or at least not drop noticeably in price. Where it does drop, performance and bandwidth will suffer, or companies will go out of business.
  • Similarly, either taxes/tuition fees will rise, or governments/universities will restrict net use to lower the cost.
  • Smaller ISPs will have problems getting enough hardware to fulfill the minimum requirements for successful internet connection.
  • ISPs/Universities that sit at bottlenecks will have to start blocking certain IP traffic, and/or will have to begin charging for traffic to pass through.
I don't think this will be the internet, but on the other hand I'm not sure it will improve the net. All in all, the problems will hopefully be meliorated somewhat by new technology, faster networks etc. But it helps to educate people what it is that makes VoIP cheaper.
Created: 2005-04-02 @205 Last change: 2005-04-02 @219 | Home | Admin | Edit
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