Did Comcast Just Admit to Vonage Traffic-shaping?

I received an emailed press release from Comcast this morning about their plans to work with Vonage to address “the reasonable network management of Internet services” that left me a tad confused. Comcast had already admitted to massaging P2P traffic, sparking an online uproar that resulted in the company backing down and announcing plans to use different kinds of network management techniques. (They massaged P2P traffic by either delaying or blocking P2P packets outright, which caused BitTorrent-type services to degrade.)

In an attempt to uncover the real reason behind the release, I called a Comcast spokeswoman and asked her if this was an exclusive deal with Vonage, and if any money was changing hands. She said that the agreement doesn’t preclude others from working with Comcast, that in fact it’s working with a variety of companies and groups. And no, there is no money changing hands.

Still, the press release kept nagging at me. And it wasn’t until I read Cynthia Brumfield’s post (Welcome back, Cynthia, from your blog vacation) that I realized Comcast might have unknowingly admitted to messing with Vonage’s VoIP traffic.

What’s interesting and surprising is that Vonage is not based on P2P technology, unlike Skype and other competitive VoIP providers. So this effort by Comcast, which extends to a seemingly unrelated “over-the-top” technology seems, well, out of the blue. Has Vonage had problems with Comcast causing problems for its customers, problems that stemmed not from the same kind of packet reset technology that spurred the initial controversy?

Well I don’t know about recently, but some two years ago a lot people complained about Vonage’s service quality on Comcast. Comcast, of course, denied that it was blocking Vonage traffic.

That was then. However, the fact that the two companies are announcing a new working relationship has me wondering if Comcast was messing with Vonage’s calls all along — you know, as part of its “network management.”

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