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Vonage Sued over Fax Issues

January 17, 2009

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Vonage is sued in a class-action lawsuit with claims that the company "made false and misleading statements and concealed material information in the marketing, advertising, and sale of Vonage Fax Service by purportedly failing to inform consumers that the protocol Defendant used for the Vonage Fax Service was unreliable, and, according to Plaintiffs, was unsuitable for facsimile communications." You can read the entire notice posted here.

As any expert in the VoIP area will tell you, fax truly is a challenge. There are a number of problems that range from packet-loss to interworking issues to signal corruption due to voice compression. That said, there are way to make fax work, given the right configuration and a properly engineered network.

Perhaps it is the latter point that is truly a problem for Vonage: Vonage does not manage the Internet and, as such, has absolutely no way to guarantee that fax calls will work. Did they advertise the service with any kind if guarantees?

Whatever the case, the general public should be made aware of the fact that, not only do fax calls not work reliably over IP networks, but neiher do point-of-sale terminals, security alarm systems, modems, or any other device that emits an analog signal. It is not because VoIP is bad, but simply because those legacy technologies were not designed for the Internet. What is needed are new technologies that replace the older technologies.

For many old technologies, there are replacements. In fact, there is a standard for Internet fax transmission. Companies that make security systems should define new systems that transmit signals over the Internet, and restaurants and stores should utilize the Internet to transmit transaction data.

The Internet is clearly here to stay and is the communication platform of the future. While this lawsuit may have simply been related to fax issues, it certainly highlights the need to rethink the notion that we should continue to try to bring along legacy technologies onto the Internet. Sometimes, it makes more sense to move away from the legacy technologies.