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VON Coalition Seeks Strength In Numbers

While 2004 may or may not be the year that Voice over IP reaches mainstream status, it's already well on its way to being the year when important regulatory decisions about VoIP and other broadband communication methods will take place.

As the FCC struggles to find a coherent voice on a wide range of VoIP-related issues on its plate, it seems like states, circuit courts and just about anyone else with skin in the game is seeking to make similar decisions, sooner rather than later. "It's pretty stunning," said Glenn Richards, the legal counsel for the VON Coalition, a lobbying cabal for the VoIP market. "Just over the last couple days, it seems like regulatory issues have moved to the front of the debate."

Richards and other VON Coalition members made their case to the industry Wednesday at the VON Show in Santa Clara, seeking to expand a membership that already includes heavyweights like AT&T, MCI, Intel and Microsoft, but is missing some key VoIP players, like Vonage. Like other industry advocacy groups, the VON Coalition is using the strength-through-numbers approach to attract members, positing that through common efforts, VoIP players can present a more-unified message over a wider range of contacts.

"If we can speak as one solid voice and tell regulators, 'here's what the industry is thinking,' that's very powerful," Richards said. Proving his point was the presence of PUC regulators from the states of Wisconsin and Washington at the VON Coalition panel at the show, as well as representatives from the FBI, all trying to find an authoritative VoIP industry voice to talk to.

"Education is one of the biggest things the VoIP industry can do right now," Richards said. "And there are just too many things for too few people [for companies to go it alone]."

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