The VoIP Market’s Gotten a Lot Tougher for the Little Guy (Pt 1)

The government has never really known what to do with VoIP.

On the one hand, VoIP is a telephony service, and as such some people argue it should be regulated and taxed in the same vein as other telephony services (such as traditional PTSN networks).

On the other hand, VoIP is an online service, a platform that isn’t so different from any other online application you might utilize, and one that should be open to new, small service providers. Seen from this angle, the notion of taxing and regulating VoIP has been a thorny issue, to say the least.

Over the years, as VoIP has increased and improved the services it’s offered and gradually transformed further and further into a full-service telephony platform, VoIP has seen increasing regulatory and tax burdens placed upon it. These burdens have dramatically changed the VoIP landscape- especially for small VoIP providers and organizations looking to become VoIP providers.

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Is Regulatory Creep Inevitable for VoIP?

The threat of regulation, to one degree or another, often seems inevitable for the VoIP market. This wasn’t always the case. In the very early days of VoIP it seemed like the communications technology would remain independent of governmental interference, largely due to its net-based nature. Yet as VoIP use grew over the years, and as it became increasingly clear how big a player VoIP was going to be in the larger telecom market, the notion of regulation began to seem more and more inevitable and, to some people, more and more necessary to ensure the normal, everyday telecommunications technologies of the future continue provide reliable service and access to emergency services, to name just a few avenues of concern for VoIP users and potential regulators.

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Could VoIP Service Become Illegal?

The thought of a communication technology becoming illegal sounds preposterous at first, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally impossible. In fact, a serious consideration to severely limiting or outright banning VoIP service providers is already given in one country, Ethiopia, and censored or otherwise limited in a number of other nations. True, none of these countries experience the level of freedom, and specifically the level of freedom of speech, that we enjoy in the United States, but their bans on VoIP clearly showcase how a seemingly innocuous technology reverberates with heightened political and economic meaning.

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