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Shaw: 'Quality of Service Enhancement' = DOCSIS 2.0 + RF cleanup

Fri, 03/10/2006 - 6:18am
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

An optional $10 per month cable modem "Quality of Service Enhancement" service package from Shaw Communications involves the introduction of a DOCSIS 2.0 modem and the mitigation of RF interference in the home, said MSO President Peter Bissonnette.

The package came under fire this week when Vonage Canada complained that it represents a potential "VoIP tax" on cable modem subs who use third-party, over-the-top VoIP telephony service providers.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Shaw fired back, calling Vonage's claims "both wrong and misleading." Shaw has maintained that the fee is purely "discretionary."

Further, Shaw countered that its VoIP phone service does not compete with Vonage directly because Shaw's PacketCable telephone service travels a managed network and prioritizes voice packets, while Vonage's uses the public Internet and "best effort" data connections. Shaw claimed its $10 "enhancement" can address "shortcomings" associated with VoIP services that use the public Internet.
 
Vonage, however, has wondered whether Shaw is justified in charging a recurring fee on something that "may consist of a one-time configuration," but acknowledged that it did not have "credible, complete information" on what the Quality of Service Enhancement actually entails.

A Shaw customer service representative told CED that the package is actually an upgrade to the MSO's Xtreme-1 tier, which caps speeds at 7 Mbps down/1 Mbps up. In addition to a higher speed cap, Shaw's Xtreme-1 tier also caps data transfers at 100 gigabytes per month, but bundles in extra applications tied to PC security, messaging, video mail and anti-spam measures.

Bissonnette told CED that the information provided by the CSR related to the operator's Quality of Service Enhancement is incorrect.

In addition to installing a DOCSIS 2.0 modem and fine-tuning the home's RF situation, Shaw also "marks" the MAC address of modems belonging to customers who take the service enhancement package.

"It's not a matter of putting [the customer] to the Xtreme service offering. That just deals with speed," Bissonnette said. "Applying quality of service elements with DOCSIS 2.0 and [cleaning up] the RF side of things is sufficient."

Bissonnette noted that of Shaw's 1.2 million Internet customers, "virtually none" of them are getting phone service from Vonage. "It's almost immaterial numbers here," he said, but acknowledged that the MSO has received calls from Vonage subs who have asked if there's anything the MSO can do to improve intermittent signal drop outs.

Bissonnette, in his prepared statement, found the timing of Vonage's claims "somewhat curious."

"We think it has more to do with their initial public Offering and the fact they have so few customers in Canada rather than any real concerns about consumers," he added.

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