Sachs: Third-Party VoIP Welcome on Network

Washington -- Cable operators have no intention of blocking the services of unaffiliated companies that want to provide Internet-based phone calls to cable's 16 million high-speed-data customers, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Robert Sachs said Thursday.

In response to calls for regulatory oversight of cable-modem networks, the NCTA has said such a move is unnecessary because cable-data subscribers are free to roam the Web and to attach Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification-compliant devices to the network.

"It would be inconsistent if we were to say -- whether it's Vonage [Holdings Corp.] or some other [voice-over-Internet-protocol] user -- that they should somehow be disallowed if a customer of ours wishes to use that service to enhance their broadband experience," Sachs told reporters at NCTA headquarters here Thursday.

Vonage and other VoIP providers can offer phone service to cable-broadband customers without the permission of the cable companies -- something Internet-service providers America Online Inc. and EarthLink Inc. could not do when they tried to migrate their high-margin narrowband business models to the broadband platform.

Cable companies have spent $84 billion sprucing up their networks so they can provide digital-video services, high-speed data and VoIP services. But they are not going to put heat on competing VoIP providers to help defray their capital expenditures by imposing access fees.

Nor, Sachs added, would cable use its network power to strip out voice bits flowing between cable-modem subscribers and third-party VoIP providers with which cable companies did not have commercial agreements.

"That is correct," he said.