Ed Driscoll

VOIP--LET IT FLY: I've written

VOIP–LET IT FLY: I’ve written several articles over the past couple of years on voice over IP. James Glassman says it could be the killer app for broadband, which has had impressive growth over the past few years:

Experts see VoIP as the “killer app,” the powerful application that will inspire Americans to subscribe to broadband. Today, 20 percent of U.S. homes have broadband — up from 5 percent when President Bush took office. That’s a start, but with VoIP, the figure should grow to 50 percent in a few years.

Meanwhile, VoIP is already igniting an explosion in investment that will eventually employ hundreds of thousands of new workers at companies like Lucent, Net2Phone, Intel, Dell, Comcast, Vonage, Qwest, Cisco, SBC, AT&T, Oracle and start-ups we can only guess about. It’s a timely cure for a recovering economy.

What can stop VoIP dead in its tracks? The same thing that could have stopped the Wright Brothers — rules and taxes created for another era and a different paradigm.

Said a recent news story in the Wall Street Journal, “Because of the Internet’s regulation-free status, phone calls sent as tiny electronic packets over the global computer network avoid all of the regulations, taxes and fees of the traditional public phone system.”

So far, anyway. But companies with an interest in maintaining that traditional system are complaining that VoIP is not really an Internet application. It’s more like a long-distance phone call. So it’s subject to rules and expensive access fees that will jack up costs to consumers and kill VoIP in the cradle.

The FCC’s Powell can cut through this nonsense and make a historic decision to keep the Internet free. Last week, he said, “If you’re going to say that Voice over IP is something that needs regulation, then you’re going to have to explain to me why e-mail isn’t also, or streaming video or instant messaging is not also.”

Glassman says that “Such free-market rhetoric is encouraging, but with Powell, you never know.” But at least he’s saying it. Imagine a quote like that from anyone if there had been a Gore administration.