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Union Needs A Better Vision Of Telecom's Future

When the Communications Workers of America union called for telecom regulations for Voice over IP earlier this week, it cited consumer protection as its motivating factor. But when you dig deeper into the issue, it's pretty clear who the union is really trying to protect -- big telco companies, who employ most of the union's members.

It's an approach that is as short-sighted as it is predictable. And ultimately, it ignores the future -- and perhaps more jobs at better wages for its workers -- in favor of the status quo, a situation that is already getting worse by the day. With big telcos laying off people as fast as they can, CWA union members should be asking their leaders to support, not oppose, VoIP and other advanced IP services, since that is where the jobs of the future will be coming from.

The argument that says VoIP and other advanced telephone services need to provide things like universal service and 9-1-1 support out of the box doesn't hold water from a number of perspectives -- including the question of how did it take AT&T to provide those same services, even when it had a monopoly grip on the market?

It's hard to imagine that VoIP providers won't solve the emergency-location services problems soon enough, in a technology and marketing-driven way that will probably surpass what's available now. (Imagine being able to send a medical history from your home PC to paramedics who are en route to the scene; the technology for that idea already exists, it just needs someone to market it as a service.)

But if VoIP providers have to instead fight court battles -- in 50 different states, if the CWA has its way -- consumers and telecom workers will be the immediate losers, as innovation gets stifled in favor of more fees for lobbyists and lawyers. Kind of makes you wonder who's calling the shots for the CWA, and why.