Should Governments Rule the Softswitch?
February 11, 2014
By Susan J. Campbell
, TMCnet Contributing Editor
In the world of telecommunications, control has often been the name of the game. Who has control over the lines that run across the county? Who has control over rates? Who can control regions of the country where services are available? Now that VoIP, by way of the softswitch, is gaining in popularity, the control is shifting back to the consumer.
Let’s take a look at what’s happening in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan. The government there is in a constant battle for control. It wants to bring all VoIP traffic under the same legal framework of all other communications. Anausha Rahman, Minister of State for Information Technology, said that all legal voice terminating taking place inside the country needs to be on standard VoIP protocols to streamline billing verification and to ensure accountability.
One of the main concerns is VoIP fraud and the government in Islamabad is hoping to curb illegal activities by exerting more control. Much of the fraud was taking place due to a lack of consistency in devices and protocols. A comprehensive policy is under development in an attempt to protect operators from the loss of funds and consumers from the growing charges related to the misuse of technology.
Is More Control Worth the Risk?
Regulating an industry has long been a practice put in place by governments to ensure the consumer is protected. The problem is that no government is without corruption and the supposed protection can often turn into a monopolistic approach to the delivery of a commodity service. When VoIP first entered the market, it offered consumers an alternative to the local phone service they had no choice but to select.
While no one wants to be the victim of fraud, is putting the control of VoIP in the hands of the government the right way to solve its ills? Most businesses turn to the softswitch because it allows them the control to migrate the voice and data networks, leveraging integrated technologies on a Unified Communications (News - Alert) platform. If that platform or the integrated technologies were controlled by the government, would the outcome improve or would it limit capabilities and bolster opportunities only for the providers making the largest contributions?
This question has long been a focus of debate where the Internet is concerned. Net neutrality (News - Alert) is a primary focus for many, while others believe pure capitalism should decide the outcome. Should the same apply to the softswitch? Should the market and consumers dictate direction or would everyone be better off if the government decides? Ask me when I’m 65 and walking to the mailbox for my Social Security check.
Edited by Alisen Downey