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Citizens Risk Arrest to Leverage VoIP and the Virtual Office

April 16, 2012
By Susan J. Campbell - Virtual Office Resource Contributing Editor

With the number of individuals, small businesses and event enterprises benefitting from the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in the U.S., it’s hard to believe there are areas in the world where this level of connectivity isn’t available. In some areas, accessing telephony over the data line is even considered illegal, making the virtual office nearly impossible.

A recent (News - Alert) blog highlights the challenges users in Nepal face if they want to leverage VoIP telephony. VoIP is illegal in Nepal, yet some users are risking a jail sentence just to try and reap the benefits inherent in VoIP service as compared with relying on the aging legacy phone systems.

In fact, the Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA (News - Alert)) is actively trying to eliminate the use of this technology. Right now, users can only access VoIP in secret, although several – if not all – of the 29 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) operating in the mountain kingdom do offer the service and support the virtual office.

The one thing that seems unclear is whether or not the individuals being serviced by these ISPs actually reside within Nepal or outside of its borders. The ISPs’ claim they aren’t acting illegally, they are simple declining to block the traffic. Out of the 29 in operation, 21 are refusing to tell the NTA the names of the customers they serve, information being demanded by Nepali regulators.

Knowing the benefits VoIP can deliver, what’s the big deal? Why are Nepali regulators turning traditionally law-abiding citizens into criminals? They are essentially trying to protect the revenue streams of the incumbent phone companies. NTA even refers to VoIP as a “fast growing problem that is costing legitimate operators in terms of lost revenue.”

Regulators are simply unhappy that small businesses have discovered a way to reduce their cost of operation and keep more of their earnings.

As outrageous as it sounds, Nepal isn’t the only country trying to block VoIP. The United Arab Emirates has demonized VoIP, making it virtually illegal. Local phone companies have the political muscle and are attempting to protect their significant tariffs generated by the now obsolete phone service.

The country is a prime target as the majority of residents are expatriate businessmen using hours and long distance. The costs can be significant – something the phone company depends upon. VoIP and the virtual office offer potential cost and efficiency savings these phone companies are not willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the people or the small business.

Imagine being told you could no longer access VoIP in your virtual office or risk arrest and imprisonment – would you take that risk?

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli

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