Freedom2Speak.org Launched

Jim Kohlenberger has shared this information with me.  Included in this site which highlights the innovation of VoIP is the ability to petition to keep VoIP as an enhanced service.

With the FCC poised to vote November 4th on a key decision that will impact the future of Internet communication, today VoIP leaders are launching a new voice activated web site and online campaign to educate consumers and policymakers about the power and potential of VoIP:  www.freedom2speak.org

An incredible transformation is making its way across the Internet — helping to bring voice to the net. These innovative Internet voice applications are changing the way we communicate, stay connected to our friends, family and colleagues. Together these technologies have the potential to deliver extraordinary new benefits.

We want to introduce you to some of the exciting new voice tools now just emerging. This new web site contains nearly 300 different cool tools — each unique — that are stretching the horizon of voice on the net.

But the future of some of these exciting technologies is not all assured. There are an unfortunate set of policy proposals by special interests that could limit your ability to speak and be heard on the Internet. And that’s why we’re asking you to get involved. Stand up — speak up — and fight for your freedom to speak on the Internet!

The web site:

1.    Highlights the amazing things that are happening when voice is integrated with the Internet.  Providing examples of nearly 300 innovative new voice enabled tools that are emerging on the Internet. These voice enabled Internet applications are giving voice to blogs, connecting friends together on MySpace and Facebook, empowering people on the campaign trail, transforming video games, integrating voice and video into instant messaging, allowing one telephone number to reach all your phones at once, ushering in a new era of voice recognition based information retrieval tools, integrating click to dial functionality into mapping and other web sites, and doing things never before possible.

2.    Demonstrates the extraordinary benefits that VoIP enabled tools can deliver.  The site includes a state by state map of benefits; highlights the broader benefits for consumers, the economy, the environment, homeland security, etc.; and provides examples of exciting and beneficial ways the technology is being put to use.  For example, at a time when families are struggling to pay their bills, VoIP enabled competition is poised to save consumers an astounding $110 billion over the next 5 years.

3.    Enables users to take specific actions to protect their freedom to speak on the net.  The FCC is poised to vote on November 4th on a key decision that will impact the future of these technologies.  The site describes key policy issues that could impact the growth of these technologies, and gives people the ability to take specific actions to protect their freedom to speak on the Internet.  With just a few clicks, the site allows users to file comments at the FCC or talk directly with policymakers.  Its critical because some proposals could subject voice enabled web sites to a patchwork of potentially conflicting state rules, or reverse key policies that would apply per minute fees to Internet commutations and voice enabled web sites.

4.    Using the medium as the message.  Voice enabled tools are incorporated throughout the site, including into voice blogs, a virtual VoIP debate between Obama and McCain, a tool to call members of Congress, and a voice broadcast tool tell their friends about the site.

VoIP is not another flavor of telephone service.  It’s a new frontier in communications for individuals and businesses alike, and it requires forward-thinking regulatory approaches.  If policymakers reflexively subject these new voice enabled Internet tools to yesterday’s telephone regulations without first understanding the variety of tools emerging, consumers and business users could miss out on the new services, increased choices and new ways to communicate that VoIP can deliver.

Jim Kohlenberger
Executive Director
The Voice on the Net Coalition

About the VON Coalition:
The Voice on the Net or VON Coalition consists of leading VoIP companies, on the cutting edge of developing and delivering voice innovations over Internet. The coalition, which includes AT&T, BT Americas, CallSmart, Cisco, CommPartners, Covad, EarthLink, Google, iBasis, i3 Voice and Data, Intel, Microsoft, New Global Telecom, PointOne, Pulver.com, Skype, T-Mobile USA, USA Datanet, and Yahoo!  works to advance regulatory policies that enable Americans to take advantage of the full promise and potential of VoIP. The Coalition believes that with the right public policies, Internet based voice advances can make talking more affordable, businesses more productive, jobs more plentiful, the Internet more valuable, and Americans more safe and secure. Since its inception, the VON Coalition has promoted pragmatic policy choices for unleashing VoIP’s potential. http://www.von.org

IIT VoIP Conference speech

Friends,  Netizens, Developers, Lend me your ears.
I have come to bury VoIP, not to praise it.
The protocols men build live after them.
The good intentions often interred in the message boards.
So let it be with VoIP, the keepers of access
Told us VoIP was merely new access
If this is so, it was a fatal error.
Skype says “VoIP is Dead”, and I have lost my bearings.
And VoIP has rightly paid the price for its ambitions.
And access providers will use VoIP for compost
Regulators are the gatekeepers of public good.
They all work for the good of the public.
VoIP was more than this to me and I will miss VoIP.
But the gatekeepers said that VoIP was access.
And they are the keepers of the public good.
VoIP integrated Instant Messaging and inspired Skype!
Included Video and Presence information signaling
But VoIP was merely access and deserved to die.
VoIP that the commission said was enhanced
Is now called access by the gatekeepers of the public good.
But even as I look at the remains of VoIP
The Presence of VoIP is still with me.
It was the presence of VoIP that inspires me.
And I will not rest until the Presence is returned

Forgive my malformed Shakespeare as I reply to Jonathan Christensen’s VoIP is Dead speech and ask you all to rethink the term VoIP with me.  When I came to the Internet, I was a bell-head focused on the issues of modem banks and circuit switches.  My thoughts were of signaling and redirection for the protection of the switches.  Enabling software to talk to switches about the Internet traffic struck me as not only valuable but essential for my customers to talk.

Today, the switches I tried to impact with software are now themselves little more than software, but somewhere along the way these softswitches lost the model of signaling that made them valuable to the Internet.  These switches are so far removed from the traffic they support, that the connectivity they provide is indistinguishable from the devices they replaced.  And yet they get to be called VoIP.

Part of this confusion that allows POTS over IP to be called VoIP is the issue of price. The vision for adoption of VoIP included the saving of money and ITSPs were created with very little cost and reach. The ITSPs margins was arbitrary based on settlements. When Jeff Pulver was running the Minutes Exchange known as MIN-X the concept of  VONage was born because the buy side, which at the time was nascent at best, had no way to reach the edge.

Unfortunately, Vonage ended up selling the service not based on Internet communication, but as POTS over IP with very few enhancements to the IP experience.

But the true Internet model was more apparent when looking at ICQ (the first Presence and Instant

Messaging service) which had an adjunct piece of software called QTALK.   This model separated the access information from the voice communication.. It was viral because access via dial up was often contentious and the status of someone made for better communication using voice and text (chat).
But after that initial adoption, new presence applications not associated with access were adopted slowly.

When Yahoo! first entered the Instant Messaging market, they loaded the application with enough additional features that the lack of buddy’s on your list was acceptable.  Presence Interoperability was considered essential by many in the industry as AOL / ICQ dominated the space.

Jeff Pulver ran presence and instant messaging conference at the turn of the century, but interoperablility started being selectively negotiated in 2005 with Blake Irving and Brad Garlinghouse agreeing to interoperate Yahoo! and MS Messenger.

This was two years after Skype started to dominate the marketplace as a client that was totally independent of any access method.  The adoption reflected the migration from dial up to to connections we generously call broadband.

However, even Skype with its millions of users and the benefit of a viral community sought connectivity with the PSTN with SkypeIn and SkypeOut.

These services were not because of the landline connectivity, but the nomadic growth of the Wireless industry.

And here we are.  Awaiting the ubiquity of the next generation of the Wireless Internet and being placated with devices that again we generously call Internet Enabled.

Many of us are thinking the answer is in social networking. Believing the massive communities online in various communities achieve the goal of gaining critical mass.

I would contend that we are again losing our focus.  It should be our mission to make presence a beneficiary of  Metcalfe’s law.

Being an application available to all on the Internet is not as valuable as Internetworking our applications together.

Metcalfe’s law promises that all applications that share connectivity between each other is six times more valuable than running in parallel.

I am advocating not just parallel play on some store on the cloud, or integration with an API.  But a creative commons of presence.

We are being lost in the forest of what my friend David Jodoin calls Technocrud.

We, the communication services, are in a drop in the applications available on the Apple’s iStore, Facebook, and other activities currently planned by the service providers and their vendors. Not only isolated but have a poor adoption rate

We represent less than 10% of the messaging apps as cateogorized by facebook . Applications are being called communications because they send gifs of hallmark cards, share notifications, location information, and messages in near real time email like solutions. These are “better than what we had” but not what can be.

And here we are in the darkness of closed systems that ubiquitously isolates our communication as we chat within their domains. Once again the Internet is being used to isolate in aggregate.

Many of us are transcending these communities such as Calliflower, but we can go farther if we enable URIs or other identifiers that can be accessed from a common query.

And we need this collective ability.  We need to maintain the public Internet signal.

In my humble opinion, both Skype and the iPhone are beneficiaries of auxiliary (peripheral or secondary) opportunities.  Skype from the base that was part of Kazaa, and Apple’s iPhone from the iTunes / iStore customer base.  Neither of them in my humble opinion could have launched without the base of their previous users.

I would contend that like the age of VON the trouble of showing the possibility of something more has eluded us and will continue to elude is if we do not enable presence connectivity amongst our applications.

We need demonstrable improvements in communication that enable users to not only say – I want that application, but I need that application.  Applications that cannot be confused with unifying a series of previously offered communication tools. More personally private and yet more publically identifiable.

And I believe we need have most of the tools we need today.

If we manage to share presence information collectively we gain a few benefits. The first is that we are gaining the benefits of Metcalfes law.  The second is we are promoting applications to the community.  If my status were to say, “Alwaysoncarl is busy using GoogleTalk”,

We should understand that with today’s asynchronous communication privacy has to be self-managed.  I would like to think that the Data Portability Forum will look at these issues.

Presence information should be part of everything we convey and communicate.

However, the ability to communicate should not require inclusion on a specific system.  Therefore communication at minimum should be convertible and transportable as part of the Internet overall.  I should point out that people are doing with content not associated to the Internet, so it is somewhat hypocritical for us not to be able to do this from within the community.

Every application that connects to every other application benefits the story of User – Initiated Internet Communication [UIC]. If we spent half the time working on presence aware application interoperability as we did to PSTN interoperability we would be at far better place in communicating with the regulators and legislators.

As the current administration draws to a close a number of long standing rules are being attacked.  And as economic issues face the world, governments are going to be looking for revenues.

I also want to warn that the recent purchase of a web based API framework by a keeper of access may in the long run be harmful.

Most importantly by enabling communication between applications, transport and communication would not be considered bundled.  Quality of Service if it exists as a problem should be solved by the edge.  While my friend Henry would tell me to leave the dead to bury the dead, the dead will come back to haunt us if we do not differentiate ourselves from the plain and the old telephone system of the past.  We should not allow the gatekeepers of access to associate us with a dull black phone service.

As Netizens, applying Metcalf’s law clearly shows our common good is the public good.   If we do not become “Presence – aware Application Caesars” we will find that all glory is fleeting.

Thank you.

RetroActive Regulation

Back in the days when IBM was a company based on mainframes and we had to teach computers to whistle so that they could talk the government determined that data services were not subject to the same regulatory rules as voice services.

The result was a boom for the computing because it was not necessary for them to pay attention to local regulators and consider themselves a telco when they built wide area networks.

The rule was very simple, if you had an protocol conversion going on or store forwarding the law of the land was you were in a different bracket.

Today, the FCC has indicated that they intend to abolish the Enhanced Service Providers [ESP] exemption.

In effect they will then claim that Internet Access is now subject to telecom regulation.  They have also indicated that local governments have the right to tax and regulate.

While my net-head friends think they are exempt because their service is free, the government may not see it that way.  In fact they don’t.

Its important that we as industry of application developers and communication services join together to fight these rules.  Even if we are not in the jurisdiction of the US.  If we expect the service to be used within the US we are subject to local interpretation.

Join me on Thursday for the Squawk Box VoIP Regulatory Call

Don’t be a POTS! Innovate!

If free is dead, in what plight can VoIP compete?

Next week in Chicago, I am going to present on the “Apps Gap.”  The sally of the presentation is that VoIP does not deserve its current fate.  Service providers are providing traditionary phone options that makes it as if they’re competing with common provide tied behind their back — how do you show presence on a POTS method?

Or they try to gain space adhering a $1000 computer that was not bought to replace a $10 handset. Worse hitherto, soft phones put a handset look and handle on the PC to really eliminate some trust the user sees innovation in advance of having one smaller set of buttons to punch.

Innovation is at a distance there, but you have to go looking on this account that it. The VON Coalition has found over 600 apps listed that they categorize as “Cool Tools” (the list is not yet public, but will be soon).  And the range of applications is extremely varying, from apps where presence rules, to Instant Messaging that includes voice, video and instant communication, as in a proper manner as multi-modal to PSTN connectors that connect your phone to the web – inbound and outbound.

Cool tools contain apps like the ingenuity to:

  • Voice enable your email or text your voice mail, or you can voice enable your blogs.
  • Social netting voice applications and tools for political activism.
  • Virtual assistants to reach you anywhere around the world.
  • Language transferrence applications to help you scheme others or learn their language.
  • Voice enabled widgets that let you think vaguely your message or avatars that purloin you.
  • Voice enabled games and animations and services that enable accessibility.
  • Mobile applications by reason of your cell phone and communications for your cameras.
  • Productivity tools for conferencing and collaboration and (of course)
  • Convergence for business on the PBX.

So talk up VoIP apps.

Use them to get humbler classes involved and thinking. Don’t let your family, your neighbor and especially your congressmen think that VoIP is blameless POTS through the Internet. Adopt one App today and tell me about it – carl@fiercemarkets.com.

The reality is, we are in a dangerous period of regulatory concern. With economies in trouble, more taxes look like redemption to states through deficits, and VoIP that looks like POTS with a POTS requisition may spoil it for enhanced services from china to peru.

Regulators are looking to appoint taxes regardless of company revenues and may in addition require for VoIP services to be connected to emergency services or supplement the require to be paid of emergency services – unruffled admitting that the application is not a primary service. And these issues are not deserved in the US, they are worldwide.

Why is a VoIP tax this prominent? To gain market awareness, many applications developers have given their consequence away.  Some intend to stay free, others are being offered as exempt for a limited duration of one’s life. If the current regulatory mindset continues, it behest cost also a great deal of to move free apps.

Thursdays, I moderate a call on the Calliflower conferencing site with Jim Kohlenberger, Executive Director of the VON Coalition.  Please stop by and join us as we try to keep the Internet a voice-enabled environment.

Going after Government Contacts for Contracts

I am attending a conference today about servicing the Federal Government.  Both candidates are probably going to have new initiatives and its interesting to listen to the bureacracy as it prepares for the integration of these new initiatives.

The people behind the bureacracy have been very forthcoming and I have enjoyed the conversations.  The big change for me is this is not a place where the focus is on the things I care about.  VoIP and IT are a niche.  I am used to being around my fellows.

Its a big difference in perspective to be a function and not the service.

And the gap about the value is tremendous.

Ho Hum Apple Again

The Apple announcement of a sub 1K computer is significant to a lot of people.

The 13 inch MAC is the first move down toward the 9 inch MAC which we have talked about in the past.

Fine.

So the market gets eaten a little bit at a time.  Its clear to me I am going to end up with a ubuntu machine in the next year, while I wait for windows 7.

Last night the conversation with a friend made it clear to me that Apple still has a long way to go to offer office tools.

While I have friends who did not have tie ins to Outlook and Office those of us who did lose a lot in the migration.

Is Facebook the AOL of its time

Sometimes even typing the title of blog post is scary.  I expect to get some pushback on this one.

At Gigaom’s blog this weekend was the analysis that Social Networks had peeked.  I always try to be a contrarian.  My history is to never join a ground swell in either direction.  So this obviously has to be the an upbeat discussion.

So let me put this in terms of what I see with the wife and kids.  My wife is still an active AOL user.  She has email loops and favorites and if she ever was going to leave AOL it would be because those features disappear.  In other words, her good will is almost everlasting. AOL is her address book and her buddy list. AOL lost its “cool” was when broadband became available and apps were discovered by the subscribers that made AOL’s interm portals irrelevant.

Facebook has very similar relationships with my kids.  The “kewl” factors are the network they have with their friends. And the groups and apps are minor for them the networking and the wall is a great asynchronous communication amongst their friends.

So what would drive the friends off of Facebook?

I think a mis-step in privacy and the effort to insert more financially viable solutions may allow the kids to look elsewhere.  As Facebook starts to lose execs and add new executives from Google and Yahoo! the question is will the kids be everlasting Facebook users.

The obvious question is what are they willing to pay for? Unlike AOL, Facebook has set their prize at zero.

I would love the analysis of the change in Facebook use five years after graduation.

So far I don’t see the driver to leave.

“…How Can I function…”

I need to be more precise and demanding.  If you read this blog from the website you will notice that it has some obvious flaws with the NING thing.  My commitment to you is to fix them.  I have been searching for something better, but so far I have not found a good alternate.

If you are a reader, I would like to know if you would become a listener as well.

Since I am in the process of editing some podcasts.

b, g, i, n and s Phones

Great conversation today on Squawk Box about the touch phones and their revolution.  While, I could not get everyone else to agree me with me.  I think the Phone is Dead and the age of texting machines are upon us.

Web browsing and texting are more powerful drivers then phone calls.  And i think we need to get our arms around this phenomena.

Blackberry, Google, Apple (i), Nokia, Samsung.

Take a look at link and a listen to the podcast and share your thoughts.