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No Free Ride For VoIP Providers

One of the common misconceptions in the Voice over IP arena is the idea that VoIP service providers are taking a free ride on the nation's telecom networks. Nothing is further from the truth, according to several VoIP providers who talked about the subject at this week's VON show in Santa Clara, Calif.

Michael Tribolet, vice president of operations for Vonage, told a keynote audience on Tuesday that contrary to popular belief, Vonage and other VoIP providers contribute indirectly to the Universal Service funds and to access fee charges, via the dollars they pay for access to bandwidth and the public switched telephone network.

"There's no free ride -- we don't trench up the fiber and use roach clips to get access," Tribolet said. "As operations guy, I see the bill [for network access], and we pay it. One of the biggest misnomers is that we don't pay anything."

Bryan Martin, chairman and CEO of VoIP provider 8x8 Inc., which offers the Packet8 VoIP service, had a similar story to tell.

"There's a perception that [VoIP providers] don't pay into 911 support funds or taxes," Martin said. But to connect IP calls to switched numbers, Martin said 8x8 buys minutes on a wholesale basis from service providers.

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