A recent news article says that obscure regulations may prevent VoIP companies from exporting their wares. The problem came up in a recent meeting convened by the U.S. Commerce Department. Industry representatives to a federal technical committee noted that a definition buried deep in section 740 of the export control regulations restricts companies from selling products overseas that can support "concurrent encrypted data tunnels or channels exceeding 250" connections at one time.
That number is ridiculously small by today's networking standards where products routinely handle thousands of simultaneous "channels" or users. Cisco Systems' Unified CallManager, for instance, handles up to 30,000 individual users per server cluster.
Let's hope that Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is savvy enough to set the record straight. For years, enterprises and vendors struggled with encryption regulations that prevented the export of products, but not the printed documents describing the underlying security technology. The loophole led to the bizarre case of PGP source code being legally exported on paper and then scanned into a file overseas to produce high-quality security products. Instances like those led President Clinton to relax export regulation in 1999.
Gutierrez should do the same in this case. VoIP technology is too easy to develop overseas for such regulations to have any meaningful impact. The regulations will simply create a vacuum filled by international firms at best and at worst deprive the international community of communications technology that is arguably even more valuable across borders than it is within the US. At a time where the American popularity is woefully low, the administration can ill afford to enforce regulations that will harm so many while providing such little benefit for American interests.