VOIP blocking against Ja's 'knowledge economy'
Coming out of the recent action by some Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile service providers to block some VOIP services, there are some issues that are not so apparent and that touch on deeper challenges affecting the Jamaican society even as we strive to become a more integrated, participatory and aware "knowledge economy".
Firstly, there is the issue of a right to privacy. It is accepted that there is no way that the ISPs could have identified the type of traffic as being from a particular mobile application without deeply intrusive inspection of data. Even if it was a justified reason and purpose, the means of collection of the data would leave a user without the assurance that nothing else was inspected nor was anything inspected but unreported publicly.
The recognition that the sovereignty of net neutrality in Jamaica has been assaulted is the second point. Net neutrality is a concept wherein there is an expectation that all traffic on a recognised "common carrier" for data is to be treated without discrimination; regardless of origin, destination, protocol or content. This concept is vital to maintain ICT as "the great equaliser" for Jamaica, facilitating innovation and participation in global value chain.
Thirdly, there are those who maintain that serious consumer rights were violated when unilateral action is taken by any service provider. The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is currently dealing with those issues, and some may say that the approach taken by the OUR does not go far enough even within the current regulatory framework.
Finally, there is the issue of Telecommunications Convergence, wherein previously distinct media such as voice telephony and data communications are combined and virtually indistinguishable on a network or device. The transmission is presented only after interpretation by an application at the endpoint.
The VOIP blocking is not as much a problem in and of itself but rather a symptom. It is a symptom of a deeply chronic malady that threatens to spiral out of control if immediate action is not taken.
The common threads in these issues are that new laws will need to be made and old laws updated. There are several pieces of legislature that are not technology agnostic, in that the language, definitions and terminology does not allow the use of different technology tools in any given situation or solution. Some of these laws are also not particularly citizen-centric. These statutes must be the subject of our attention within the next few months. Additionally, the time it takes to change some laws is also hostile towards the protection of the citizens of Jamaica as the people will continue without protection or recourse in law until legislation is enacted.
Dean M Smith MBA, BSc, BEng, FLMI, MJCS
Jamaica Computer Society