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VoIP block is not a net neutrality issue, says Digicel

Published:Sunday | July 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Richard Browne, Business Reporter

Digicel Jamaica has confirmed that it is still blocking Viber and other VoIP providers, despite reports that many people are still accessing the services via its network.

And the telecoms provider says it has no intention of removing the block in Jamaica until those companies come to table and iron out an agreement.

"Digicel Jamaica is still blocking Viber and other unlicensed number-based VoIP apps on the 4G Mobile network until a mutually beneficial commercial relationship can be agreed," said Gail Moss-Solomon, Digicel's legal and regulatory head told Sunday Business.

Current discussions with the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) have so far not changed its position.

"Digicel Jamaica has been in discussions with the OUR on the VoIP issue in Jamaica and those discussions are ongoing," said Moss-Solomon.

"We also continue to reach out to VoIP providers to determine a mutually beneficial way forward".

Digicel does not buy into the argument that the blocking of VoIP providers is in opposition to the concept of net neutrality, notwithstanding efforts to link the issues.

Net neutrality basically states that content on the internet should be treated equally in terms of access.

"This is not a question of net neutrality, we believe these operators are acting illegally and as such we are within our rights to block them," Moss-Solomon said.

EUROPEAN SITUATION

In a recent tweet on his Twitter account, Viber CEO Talmon Marco drew attention to recent moves to make net neutrality law in the European Union.

It may soon be against the law for European internet service providers (ISPs) to block VoIP and other services. The European parliament recently voted to restrict ISPs from blocking any service that may compete with their own - including VoIP providers.

Marco raised the issue in a Tweet. He also commended the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) "for forcing the Digicel group to stop net censorship."

"Jamaicans deserve the same!" he said.

TATT last week requested that Digicel lift its suspension on VoIP providers until it completes a probe aimed at resolving the impasse in that market.

richard.browne@gleanerjm.com