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Vonage Holdings Corp. Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2013 Results

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Net Neutrality is Key to Telecom Reform, Hill Staffers Hear


Vonage In Print News



December 5, 2005

By Staff

Vonage and TiVo executives said they're content with net neutrality provisions in the House Commerce Committee telecom reform draft. The issue is so central to their business models that they're inclined not to quibble over minutiae, which might result in delaying the legislation's passage or stalling the bill indefinitely. Those outcomes would spell disaster for the 2 high-tech companies, Congressional staffers heard at a Public Knowledge (PK)- sponsored lunch Fri.

"If it can't be better because we need to get the bill passed, I can live with it, because I need it," said TiVo Gen. Counsel Matthew Zinn, calling net neutrality the most important component to his company in the Telecom Act rewrite. Under the "gatekeeper model" being proposed by major telcos like BellSouth and AT&T (WID Dec 1 p2), "we don't have a role; we're done," he said. Vonage Vp- Govt. Affairs Chris Murray said net neutrality is "the most important issue to get right in terms of the way the Internet is going to evolve over the next decade." The topic must be approached with much humility and considerable deliberation, he said.

The beauty of the Internet has been that any consumer with a Web connection can visit any site, post any content and provide any service as long as they don't interfere with other network users, PK Pres. Gigi Sohn said. "This has been because of and not in spite of a regulatory framework that requires network owners to keep their networks open," she said. Court and FCC rulings have changed that and broadband providers want to have the same authority as cable companies to serve as content controllers, Sohn said. Handing over that control would be bad for consumer welfare, bad for the economy and bad for society, she argued.

Telcos' main arguments are that net neutrality stifles broadband deployment, it's a "solution in search of a problem" and supporters can only name a handful of examples of discrimination. But the Madison River-Vonage port blocking case wasn't the first example of discrimination, said Consumer Federation of America Research Dir. Mark Cooper. Network owner offenses date back 10 years to early arguments over whether video should be transmitted online, he said. Later battles have proven that "nondiscrimination is part of the DNA of capitalism," he said.

Public policy has "been at heart of this from day one," and lawmakers are now being told by those who own the pipeline that their oversight is no longer needed because those companies don't intend to discriminate, Cooper said. "This is not an argument that rings true," he said: "If you really hadn't done it, and you don't intend to, then a law that says you can't do it won't harm you." Allowing people to differentiate between levels of service -- like choosing dial- up or DSL -- is acceptable, but network operators that want to strike deals with certain service providers to buy exclusive access to a customer base is "a radical change in the way we treat the network," Cooper said. Such a system would allow companies like BellSouth to "pick and choose the winners," and it would have a chilling effect on consumers, who won't be able to exercise choice, he said.

"Net neutrality means that the Internet keeps working like the Internet works today," Murray said, meaning "you don't have to go to kiss the network owners' ring before you offer your service to the public. It's about keeping innovation at edge [and] keeping the network working in an end-to-end, open fashion like the Internet has always worked."




 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

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