A case of mixed signals? Blocking VoIP in the Caribbean

caribbeanvoipOPINION – Since Sunday, 29 June, consumers across the Caribbean have been in an uproar over telecoms, especially mobile/cellular providers, blocking applications and services on their networks that use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Generally, the term VoIP speaks to technologies that are used to deliver voice communications and multimedia transmissions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, which is used by the Internet, and includes offerings such as Skype, Google Talk, MagicJack and Viber.

One of the first telcos in the region to recently block VoIP was Digicel, which has blocked VoIP on its networks in Jamaica and Haiti. LIME, the other major mobile/telecoms provider in the region, has also followed suit in Jamaica (Source: The Gleaner). Some of the views the providers have expressed, which may be construed as justification for blocking the technology, include:

  • use of VoIP is a form of bypass of its networks
  • VoIP puts enormous pressure on its bandwidth
  • they are seeking to protect the integrity of its network and protecting their customers’ ability to use the network in a way their customers are accustomed
  • VoIP is having a negative impact on data usage overall
  • other operators bringing international traffic to its network pay a termination fee, the entities that use VoIP are not paying anything to do it (Sources: Television Jamaica, The Gleaner).

Tech communities across the region, particularly entrepreneurs who are in the trenches, have been quite vocal that the banning of VoIP will stifle innovation. They have also noted that the blocking of certain Internet services is against the principle of net neutrality, an issue that is being widely debated in the United States, and which we at ICT Pulse have written articles about. Some regulators in the region, such as those in the OECS, have declared positions in favour of net neutrality and that providers should refrain from blocking content (Source: Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority). In this article, we examine VoIP blocking by Caribbean telcos and share our own concerns about this latest development.  more