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Vonage Hi All, Thanks for your help. Following up from my earlier post in which I called

Hi All,

Thanks for your help. Following up from my earlier post in which I called for some conclusive data about the alleged blocking of Vonage by Comcast, we are still looking for a reliable testing solution that will provide some really bulletproof data.

I've enlisted the help of someone with more Tech expertise than myself to comment. Below is some of the stuff he sent over to me. Your feedback is much appreciated. I'm assuming some of you will be familiar with all of the stuff that my friend makes a point of explaining to me in layman's terms, if so, sorry about that, and please just skip to the end. He has specifically mentioned the potential of designing a test himself or enlisting people from Vonage to custom design a test. What do you think:

So there are several issues here:
* Comcast is assumed to be highly technical, so they will be able to
cleverly hide their sabotage, if it exists
* User testing tools are not generally sophisticated enough to detect

Lets take a look at the testing part first, because that will lead into
the explanation of the second part.

User testing tools largely consist of testing over a protocol called
ICMP. ICMP ( is a peer to the TCP
part of TCP/IP (it's also a peer protocol to UDP, not talked about

ICMP traffic is special traffic that isn't typically used as part of
everyday network usage. When you browse the Internet, or make a Voip phone call, you're using TCP, not ICMP. When you ping or traceroute ( the two most common tools on user systems ) you're using ICMP, not TCP.

ISPs will block ICMP traffic for many reasons, including security (more likely) or general bandwidth conservation (less likely).

A good way to see this is by pinging :
matt@matt:~$ ping
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.

- ping statistics -
9 packets transmitted, 0 received, 100% packet loss, time 8001ms

In this case, you can see that all packets were "lost", in our case they were blocked. However, you can still (obviously) access Microsoft's websites using a web browser.

In any case, ICMP traffic can be selectively handled differently from
normal TCP traffic very easily. Because of this, it's difficult to have
users try and detect problems on their systems without specialized
tools. I'll talk about these more at the bottom of this email.

Having said all of this, the next logical step seems to be "Well, why
not just use a web browser, since that's normal traffic, to detect

(Un)fortunately, Comcast is an ISP and can do far more clever "futzing" with traffic than simple ICMP filter/blocking. Voip traffic uses a particular protocols and well-known ports that we can assume Comcast knows about. Given this, they can block/delay traffic to and from customers of Vonage selectively.

So, they can allow full speed traffic to and from Vonage's webservers and selectively block/delay Voip traffic only if they so choose.

It's important to keep in mind, however, that given the complexity
involved with delivering reliable network traffic that Comcast may
simply be having technical issues. This happens more often than people realize and may explain the reasons involved here.

Unfortunately, without a very specific set of tests (which I would
expect Vonage to create, actually) it will be hard to prove Comcast's
actions one way or the other.

Having said all of this, there are a few tools people can use to try and detect issues (should you want to learn how to do all of this of
course). On is a tool called "Nmap" ( ). Nmap is a "security" tool
and shouldn't be used lightly (system administrators don't like people using Nmap against their servers, as it's classically used by crackers gathering information before breaking into systems). However, you can use nmap to scan the remote hosts and see which ports are open. This would be a quick way to tell if the ports are being blocked intermittently.

Another tool is called Ethereal
( ). Ethereal can be used to
monitor network traffic at the very lowest levels and requires a
protocol expertise to interpret the data. However, it could be used in this case to figure out if the packets are being blocked/delayed because
there are markers in the way the packets are handled (packet loss for example).

Also, a link to a Vonage test:

Read The Full Thread:

Comcast vs. Vonage

ok, thank you CyberCSI for ur link. It seems you're very knowledgeable about networking
I'm seeing the exact same thing. Seems to be losing that last hop before it gets
And here we go again............
I am no believer in conspiracies, but having seen two episodes of Vonage issues
Well, Comcast is doing their own VoIP service in some areas now.... considering
(As I shudder contemplating the impending buy out of my most excellent ISP by Comcast)... I
I know ISPs like to provide that "bandwidth hog" argument, but in reality, does
Well, you're right of course, it's a low use compared to those... except that it
I will call my local comcast now and ask if they offer voip.. as they did not in my
somethings is going on... Before when I called comcast I always got the same

Joscelin posted "Hi All, Thanks for your help. Following up from my earlier post in which I called" on 03/02/2006

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