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VoIP Needs A Users' Champion

Now that various legislative and regulatory bodies have started the process of muddying the waters over VoIP, one thing is clear: Nobody's looking out for the users, people trying to use the technology to improve their businesses.

Today's FCC meeting took a first, tentative step in providing some leadership on the issue, when the commission decided that the geeky Free World Dialup
service was free to operate without having to worry about regulatory interference. While that's great news for Jeff Pulver, it doesn't mean a whole lot to enterprises looking to buy VoIP services from traditional suppliers, like AT&T.

In that battle -- which will involve numerous players from the lands of cable, telecom, wireless and government -- the armies of lobbyists and lawyers are just now being pulled from the ground, readying their eventual march upon a telecom version of Helms Deep. All we need is a King Theoden to overlook the scene and mutter a prophetic, "So it begins."

Users, unfortunately, don't have an elf or a dwarf to help them. All the talk right now is vendors versus regulators versus lawmakers, trying to decide who will divvy up the eventual spoils. In the meantime, regulatory uncertainty will cast a doubt over the viability of VoIP services (and stifle investment in VoIP concerns), keeping many potential customers on the sidelines.

How can that change? In a perfect world, a political leader would emerge, with a sensible plan that balances the need to fund important infrastructure elements (like 911 service and rural connectivity) with a light regulatory and fee touch that would encourage entrepreneurs to invest in and develop the nascent technology. Users could rally behind such a leader, offering voting and even fundraising support to bolster said leader's political strength.

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