Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On the ground: VoIP vs Telcos

In some countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the national Telcos (land based phone companies) have started using software from Narus Inc. to block VoIP (Voice over IP) software used on their network, such as Skype or Vonage. This opens the gate to phone companies being able to block users from using software they decide over their network. Since these are national providers, that means a large population in these countries are blocked from doing certain things on the Internet. Not only is this a clear violation of free speech and free enterprise, it's a new technology allowing any provider to start filtering and censuring information.

It's obvious that VoIP is a big threat to old monopolies that only deal with wired telephony. It's also a big issue to cell phone providers. A cell phone using a java based VoIP software could make voice calls using the data network, potentially costing less to the user. A cell phone with wi-fi using the same program could do voice calls for free any time you're near a hotspot. Fortunatly some companies are working for the customers like Motorola's announcement to create a VoIP API for its cell phones. Let's just hope this is truly an open and genuine offer, and that it doesn't get shut down from the usual big corporate lobbyists. The VoIP technology is here to stay, and just like so many new technologies, the old guys are doing everything they can to stop or slow them down, but in the end if we make it clear we want choice they will lose.

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