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Clearwire May Block VoIP Competitors

Someday, customers of wireless broadband provider Clearwire Corp. may be able to use Voice over IP services. But right now, Craig McCaw's newest company is giving its customers the silent treatment by apparently blocking outside VoIP providers from its network.

In what the company claims is an effort to preserve the performance of its pre-standard WiMAX network, Clearwire says it reserves the right to prohibit the use of a wide range of bandwidth-hungry applications, a list that apparently includes VoIP as well as the uploading or downloading of streaming video or audio, and high-traffic Web site hosting. According to the company's terms of service, Clearwire reserves the right to restrict access or terminate service to customers who don't comply with its rules.

While a company executive claimed the restrictions were necessary to ensure network performance reliability, Clearwire could not explain how that issue would be resolved when it offers its own VoIP services in the near future. Earlier this month, Clearwire signed an agreement with Bell Canada under which Bell Canada will provide VoIP systems and services for Clearwire, at a date and price yet to be announced.

But current Clearwire customers may have difficulties if they try to use the network for independent VoIP services. At least one customer of Vonage Holdings Inc.'s VoIP service has reported an incident of having the service blocked by Clearwire, according to Brooke Shulz, vice president for corporate communications at Vonage. According to Shulz, when the customer asked why the service didn't work, a Clearwire representative told the customer that they couldn't use Vonage over Clearwire.

Gerry Salemme, an executive vice president at the Kirkland, Wash.-based Clearwire, said he wasn't familiar with the specific case involving Vonage, but did say that Clearwire reserved the right to restrict access to applications over its nascent service in order to preserve overall network performance.

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