OUR to delay decision on VoIP blockade

23 Jul 2014

The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) will examine more closely whether the provision of over-the-top (OTT) voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services constitutes illegal bypass before ruling on LIME and Digicel’s decision to block such services from their networks, the Jamaica Gleaner writes. The regulator is involved in talks with the duo and will investigate their claims before issuing a decision on the matter and, to that end, the regulator has requested that the two cellcos provide information supporting their stance. Digicel and LIME have been asked to hand over ‘data showing the nature of the alleged bypass of their networks by VoIP providers and its impact.’ According to the Gleaner, Digicel has been far more vocal on the matter than its smaller rival LIME – which has pursued the same course of action but has been less outspoken on the issue – quoting Digicel’s head of regulatory and legal affairs Gail Moss-Solomon as saying: ‘Digicel Jamaica continued to block unlicensed number-based VoIP operators until a mutually beneficial commercial relationship can be agreed.’ Whilst Viber and Nimbuzz are known to be affected by the blockade, Digicel has not provided a comprehensive list of the operators blocked, with Ms Moss-Solomon adding that the ‘list of those operators [to be blocked by Digicel] is under continued review.’

The decision by LIME and Digicel to block VoIP services over their networks has been met with a public outcry, and consumer rights advocacy groups have strongly condemned the action. Critics have pointed out that the matter is a net neutrality issue, claiming that LIME and Digicel are dictating what services may and may not be used. Whilst the government supports net neutrality, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining said that the issue should be decided by the OUR and not the government.