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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Does This Make Om Malik the Pat O'Brien of VOIP?

Om Malik likens VOIP to the "It Girl" Lindsay Lohan, saying it gets a disproportionate amount of ink for no apparent reason. Of course he's just kidding. Obviously he knows it's important given how frequently he enlightens readers about it.

I've been getting into the bloggings of subject experts on VOIP and related technologies. There's nothing like a far-reaching technology that is on the cusp of being really useful, trying to fight its way through the entrenched interests and outdated assumptions of powerful old companies and baffled regulators, to get the blood flowing.

Mark Evans (a technology reporter for the National Post), has been pointing out that VOIP seems to get disproportionate ink north of the border, as well. (Disproportionate only because, due to the current state of regulation, there is not much incentive for the bigger telcos to move on it, and not enough room for the upstarts to push forward.... though presumably this will sort itself in a year or two. I see proof on the Bell Canada website, which promises a new VOIP service "coming soon, in Summer 2005." What do you want to bet that gets delayed until December, which really means February if you're talking about corporations making any major switchover decisions?) I join Mark in saluting Telus CEO Darren Entwhistle for slamming the CRTC over its failure to encourage VOIP adoption through regulation. As every Canadian knows, the leading communications firms, Bell and Rogers, love to drag their feet on new ideas... because they can. Soviet-Union-length waits for new installs of business phone lines, at ridiculous prices? Sure. Because they don't have to care.

Bottom line: if you're a small business in Canada, to get VOIP in your office, you need an Internet connection. To get a high-speed connection, you're probably going to wind up going with one of the top two providers, either the cable co, or Bell for DSL. So you can't bypass them entirely. And somewhere along the line, some vested interest in your office building or in the food chain at some point is going to see to it that you are somehow inconvenienced for attempting to circumvent the big guys. It's a regulatory issue, but also a cultural one.

This will someday be mercifully a thing of the past, when truly entrepreneurial companies like Google, Apple, (and yes even) Microsoft, and Skype, have rolled out unique communications solutions. Assuming they have regulatory permission to do so.

Mark Evans, quite possibly, is the Ben Mulroney of Canadian tech reporting. More about that later. But first, an update on Elton John's hair.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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