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VoIP Receives Warm Reception From UK Regulators 119

"In stark contrast to the U.S., where VoIP providers may be stifled by wiretap costs, the UK telecoms regulators seem to be welcoming the technology. The BBC is reporting that a block of phone numbers have been assigned to VoIP users -- and that Ofcom, the regulators, have said 'Our first task as regulator is to keep out of the way.'
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VoIP Receives Warm Reception From UK Regulators

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  • See/Hear (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oneandoneis2 ( 777721 ) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:22AM (#10175319) Homepage

    It's interesting to note that when CCTV cameras in public places in the UK were mentioned on /. the other day, there was an immediate outcry from US people about "Invasion of privacy" and "Thank God the authorities here can't spy on me when I'm outside!"

    And then when VoIP gets mentioned, it has to be pointed out that it's being stalled in the US by the authorities complaining that it'll make it harder to spy on people who are in their own homes.

    Six of one and half a dozen of the other. . ?

    • Re:See/Hear (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:24AM (#10175325)
      Of course, because the United States is the land of the free. It even says so in that little song of theirs! How much more proof do you need?!

      It's too early for most Americans to be up right now but I'm sure some will be along soon to tell you how wrong you are and why the US is the greatest country in the world ever.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        You say it like it was just a lie that they are the greatest and freest. But surely our American friends would not lie to us about important issues like that!
        • You say it like it was just a lie that they are the greatest and freest.
          America is definitely the #1. I know this to be true since I saw it on a giant foam rubber hand.
      • But next Saturday is the Last Night of the Proms and hundreds of Brits will be singing "Land of hope and glory, mother of the free" about Britain. Also "Britons never will be slaves" (from "Rule Britannia"). Who do we believe?
        • Re:See/Hear (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Well I've never been owned by a fat white guy from Alabama, so I guess "Britons never will be slaves" is pretty accurate.
      • And now, my American duty:

        Thank you for your attention.
        • Thank you Slashdot form validator for carefully warning me that everything put between angle brackets is assumed to be HTML instead of being escaped. Christ. Here:
          And now, my American duty:

          <obligatory "we're number one!">
          <obligatory 'saved your asses in WW II' rhetoric>
          <obligatory denigration of all things French>
          Thank you for your attention.
    • Re:See/Hear (Score:2, Interesting)

      by two-tail ( 803696 )

      there was an immediate outcry from US people about "Invasion of privacy" and "Thank God the authorities here can't spy on me when I'm outside!"

      Of course, many in the US are not aware that there are a large number of cameras watching where they go. However, most of the cameras are direct-to-tape or otherwise go directly to recordings. There doesn't seem to be a system that takes all of these camera networks, linking them into a single system. At least, not yet...

    • Re:See/Hear (Score:5, Funny)

      by SlashdotLemming ( 640272 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @07:20AM (#10175648)
      Six of one and half a dozen of the other. . ?

      Only a partial view of the truth. The real model is simple though:

      Something happens somewhere in the world. One of the two follows:

      a) Immediate outcry from a large portion of /. readers. The end is near.
      ex: Bill Gates farts
      "Gates just shot himself in the foot. This really leaves a bad taste in my mouth" (Score:5,Insightful)
      "Gates is just a copycat. He has nothing on a Stallman fart" (Score:5,Informative)
      b) Fanboy circle jerk
      ex:Peter Jackson releases source code for LOTR trilogy
      "Jackson is one of the great humanitarians of our time" (Score:5,Insightful)
      "According to this link, Lucas refuses to OS the Star Wars Trilogy. This is why Lucas will never hold a candle to Jackson" (Score:5,Informative)
      "My presssccciousss" (Score:5,Funny)
    • How is this contradictory? Just because the US authorities like spying on people in their own homes, doesn't mean Slashdotters in general approve of that idea any more than mass CCTV.
      • How is this contradictory?

        Beats me. When did I say it was contradictory?

        In fact, I said it was a case of "Six of one, half a dozen of the other" - that's a way of saying "The same, but different."

        i.e. When one type of surveillance is mentioned, the US /.ers smugly point out they have no problems, only the UK has to worry about it.

        Shortly after, another form of surveillance is mentioned, and the UK /.ers smugly point out they have no problems, only the US has to worry about it.

        So, in the end, which

    • But in practice, they need probable cause and a warrant to use a wiretap. Though I'm sure you're like most Euros who think they're spying on us anyways, collecting all that damning evidence against us every day. And of course it's not worth mentioning that illegal wiretaps can't be used in courts. Oh, but that's right, we won't get a trial will we? Good old secret black ops will come into our house and drag us into Camp X-Ray and we'll never see the light of day again! Oh the agony, I wish I didn't liv
  • Yes but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CountBrass ( 590228 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:29AM (#10175346)
    Just wait until David "Hitler" Blunkett hears about it: there'll be new laws in parliament outlawing it or requiring any VOIP users to first prove, on pain of becoming Blunkett's new guide dog, that they are who they say they are. Edward PS: The fact that David Blunkett, a "Labour" (eg Socialist, left wing), is best mates with the editor of one the most right wing tabloids (the Daily Mail) has nothing to do with him behaving like a rabid dog: I think he must be trying to out right-wing Margaret Thatcher just to impress his editor friend.
    • I think he must be trying to out right-wing Margaret Thatcher just to impress his editor friend.

      No, he's just a fascist.


    • by peterprior ( 319967 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:47AM (#10175403)
      Hopefully he'll just turn a blind eye...

      I'll get my coat..
      • by mo^ ( 150717 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @06:00AM (#10175431)
        you waste yer mod points before the time expires then a corker like this appears!!!

        i used to tech support the HO, and the common line there, when security clearnace was granted went along the lines of...

        "I can read Blunketts email........ and thats more than he can do"
    • Re:Yes but... (Score:5, Informative)

      by perly-king-69 ( 580000 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @06:13AM (#10175463)
      This [] page gives a graphical indication of where MP's stand based on their voting record in the current parliament.
      Blunkett is a long way out from the vast majority of the Labour party.
      • the other end of the Labour distribution from Blunkett is one T. Blair!
      • Interestingly, Tony Blair is even further out from the rest of the labour party.
      • That is rather distorted for front benchers (in particular the PM and his cabal) because they so rarely vote.
      • Very intersesting page! From the page is an explanation of why Blunket is so far away from the cluster...

        Why is Tony Blair and his cabinet so far away from the rest of his party?

        I suspect it's because they mostly show up to votes which tend to be on contentious issues when many MPs are rebelling. This gives them a higher than expected dissimilarity measure than if they turned up to all the non-contentious votes when there was no rebellion. They show up during these contentious issues in order to encour

        • I think it might actually be the other way around. Over the course of a year, the contentious issues actually form a very small minority of the overall total vote. The Prime Minister especially and more than likely some other senior members of the cabinet traditionally have the lowest turnout in parliament out of any other MP due to the extra duties they have to perform, (or at least I think thats the official reason). Gordon's off crunching numbers and Tony's off serving drinks to Bush in the Whitehouse an
      • Horror of horrors, a link on slashdot to something interesting!

        I'd be curious to see the results of similar stuff with parliments of other countries, MEPs and the UN.

        Food for thought.

    • Yeah, even worse would be Al Gore claiming he "invented" VoIP
    • You can get a pay as you talk mobile phone without any form of ID - just hand over some cash for the phone and a voucher and start talking.

      Proving who you are isn't a problem because you don't need to even say who you are.
  • BT? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peterprior ( 319967 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:29AM (#10175349)
    "Our first task as regulator is to keep out of the way."

    Lets hope they don't stay out of the way for too long, like they did with BT, especially given how quickly businesses get a foothold in these kinds of markets.
    • Re:BT? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dave420 ( 699308 )
      Are you crazy? Oftel were so far up BT's ass. BT couldn't do anything without Oftel screaming "unfair! unfair! abuse of position!". BT wanted to slash call charges, and drastically reduce broadband costs, yet Oftel pipes up and says "that's abusing your position, and unfair to the smaller telcos who can't compete", and so BT has its hands tied. Of course, from the outside, it might look completely different.

      The best thing that could happen to VoIP is Oftel staying away.

      • Re:BT? (Score:4, Informative)

        by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @06:07AM (#10175451) Homepage Journal
        Oftel pipes up and says "that's abusing your position, and unfair to the smaller telcos who can't compete"
        No, what they said was "You can do that as soon as there's a free market, and not while you're a de facto monopoly for certain services: i.e. after you've unbundled the local loop."

        BT then said, "Oh no, thats still a massive cash cow, and we thoroughly intend to continue to drag our feet over it."
        • Re:BT? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @07:46AM (#10175730)
          No, even if BT had unbundled every loop they can get their hands on, BT are still screwed. Their sheer size means Oftel doesn't let them do anything that they can get away with (due to their size) and other telcos can't. Oftel help, but they get in the way a hell of a lot more often :)
          • oftel do not exist any more. its 'Ofcom', and its much much much better. The Head of ofcom seems to be a real go getter, and someone who really understands the issues.
  • by mishmash ( 585101 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:30AM (#10175353) Homepage
    Full text of UK OFCOM VOIP consultation [] , which contains 12 Questions which the Ofcom want comments on...

    Which include - What does the future hold? and Have we forgotton about anything?

    One thing I'd say they don't discuss is vunerbility to things like DDOS attacks... they also don't comment on phone tapping (Though that's covered in other legislation it would be good to have included the relavant pointer here)

    • I see that "OFCOM strongly prefers to receive responses as email attachments in Microsoft Word format". No doubt all other responses will be ignored - so that disenfranchises all us Linux users right away.
  • by Andy_R ( 114137 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:31AM (#10175358) Homepage Journal
    The story for us Brits here is not the rather waffly statement that ofcom "seem to be welcoming" VoIP, it's the hard fact that they are having a consultation period on it.

    They want to know our views on issues such as mandatory provision of free 999 calls (our emergency number, equivalent to 911 in the USA).

    The consultation ends on the 15th November. Here is how to respond. [] If we want a sensible VoIP policy in Britain, now would be a good time to ask the regulatory body for it.
    • 999 on the way out (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Cybertect ( 85900 )

      Not that it makes much difference to what you're saying, but it's being replaced with the EU standard 112

      Single European emergency call number 1-1-2 []

      AFAIK, they're currently parallel running both numbers.

      • I seem to recall hearing something about 112 using a different call centre to handle this too and that you're better calling 112 if you want to prompt response.... but my brain collects all sorts of mostly useless information, so that might not be 100% accurate! :-)
      • by csteinle ( 68146 )
        999 isn't going away. There's no good reason to stop it from working, even if 112 becomes the "official" number. Hell, 911 even works here, due to the number of times people dial it instead of 999.
        • "There's no good reason to stop it from working"

          Well there is one: it's easy to dial accidentally with a push button phone.
          • Well there is one: it's easy to dial accidentally with a push button phone.

            Ironically it was choosen initially because it was hard to dial accidentally! You could activate "112" while cleaning the phone if you hit the hang-up switch once, once, then twice. This is from the old days of pulse dialing.

  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:37AM (#10175377) Journal
    It seems like this is a good deal for everyone all around except that in the end VoIP is still another manifestation of the infinitely malleable POTS system. All those bits are travelling over the same wires as those expensive long distance calls are. The only difference is in who is paying for that bandwidth.

    With normal long distance calling, the burden is borne by the person making the call or the receiver in the case of a collect call. In VoIP, the burden is already being paid for by the backbone ISPs who provide overseas network connections over their fat pipes.

    Guess who owns those fat pipes. If you said the phone company, you would be correct.

    Once revenues start dropping from standard phone charges as more and more people switch over to VoIP, the phone companies will start looking for ways to gain more revenue via their most active systems, i.e. the long distance channels upon which the ISP backbones are structured.

    A general rise in prices charged to ISPs will find their way down to the end subscriber and all those pennies saved using VoIP vanish in a puff of logic. Add to this that once consumer groups figure out that the burden of *your* high VoIP usage is borne by *all* subscribers, they will start demanding tiered service and your delightfully cheap long distance calls will suddenly be just as expensive as they were on the old POTS program.

    Be careful what you wish for.
    • by paedobear ( 808689 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:49AM (#10175411)
      You do realise this is a post about the UK don't you. Most countries don't have the long distance / local provider thing you Americans do. I mean there are cheap calling cards, but those are a little different.
    • by doofusclam ( 528746 ) <> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:50AM (#10175413) Homepage
      Maybe. But the fact is that, for the amount of data sent over their pipes for voice, it's more efficient (read: less bandwidth) to use VoIP. So it costs the link owner less too.

      POTS is outdated anyway. Broadband is a utility these days, and if the government want to mandate anything they should impose QoS terms on providers (at the moment there is no contractual obligation for a UK Broadband ISP to actually keep the service going, whereas for POTS a days down time can cost BT money). Once we have QoS on our broadband, then POTS will slower die off.
    • by jos3000 ( 202805 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @06:11AM (#10175457) Homepage
      I look at the current price advantages of VOIP as merely an insentive that will speed up uptake.

      The real advantage, from my perspective, of VOIP is the flexable nature of the network and the new sorts of phone systems that can be set up. Systems that are functionally equivalent to todays office switchboards can be deployed over distributed locations and you can control all of the routing directly using your own server. There's no need to ask the phone company to add another extention. This is, of course, just one example.

      Yes, prices will go up, but we will be able to get a more sophisticated service for the same cost.

    • But network consolidation is good for telcos too because managing a packet-only network is easier than managing a packet network and a circuit network and cheaper. Done well, a packet network can achieve higher throughput on the same pipes too. Also packet technologies are improving very quickly and getting cheaper per bps quickly too.
      Of course there is the point that if I VOIP to someone on the same exchange as me, I'll probably make a long distance connection (exchange my ISP someone's ISP exchange).
    • (FYI - I work onsite at Telcos and ISPs, designing and installing Customer Care and Billing systems)

      This is basically wrong - I will try and explain, or at least give some examples...

      "...In VoIP, the burden is already being paid for by the backbone ISPs who provide overseas network connections over their fat pipes."

      Wrong - you pay for the network which you are running VoIP on. No Telco or ISP pays for you, because if they did they would be out of business.

      The real difference between VoIP and POTS is

    • While I agree that eventually prices will rise due to some of these issues you pointed out, it's also worth remembering that traditional phone companies were generally monopolies. Sure they were regulated, but it's not hard to get a regulator to agree to a price increase. VOIP will always offer more competition than POTS ever could. It's trivially easy to switch VOIP providers, so that will provide an enormous incentive to them to keep prices reasonable.
  • by devitto ( 230479 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:39AM (#10175382) Homepage Journal
    OFTEL don't need to push the interception stance, because RIPA already covers it.

    The US survelliance laws are _totally_ different to those of the UK.
  • So does this mean (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @06:47AM (#10175536) Homepage Journal
    That I'll be able to get a London Telephone number, while I remain in the US?

    I'll finally be able to call the telephone numbers that are in European magazines.

    • That I'll be able to get a London Telephone number, while I remain in the US?

      The BBC [] just mention 056 numbers in their article, but I'm sure my morning coffee-and-teletext session suggested that there'd be geographic numbers as well. I'm guessing you'd only be allowed an 0207/0208 number if your billing address was in London. Maybe you could get a friend or relative to ... assist you?

    • Yes, although you can do that already - for suppliers.

      I'm not convinced assigning a new prefix is a good measure time passes the two will surely converge and then you'll be left with a mess of numbers that mean nothing....?
      • Well, covergence didn't/hasn't happen with mobile phones - they still have their own prefix set.

        As long as the pricing might be different for people calling different types of numbers, it makes sense to have a different prefix so that you know whether or not you're likely to be charged more/less for the call.

        • agreed, but the distinction is only necessary if that is going to be the case - such as with mobiles...
          i will be interested to see what happens - will each provider be allocated a batch of numbers?
          if i am will that translate to 05612345 - clearly not....there would have to be universal (worldwide) application support for this standard for it to be successful so i can call 056123457891 (where 056 is voip, 123 my provider and then 457891 my uid?) from my vonage phone and it to know to
          • OFCOM are concerned with how POTS phone users can call VoIP users and vice versa. How VoIP users contact VoIP users is not particularly relevant.

            When someone calls you from POTS-land, the 561234xxxx will route the call to your VoIP provider, who will then route it to you based on the remainder of the number.

            Going the other way, when your call goes through your chosen provider's VoIP-to-POTS gateway in the UK, it will have an appropriate 056 number inserted in the SS7 data. This is essential for inter-

      • And it's possible to get a London number outside London without using VoIP, through any of - ooh, about a zillion companies. People from most such companies hang around in uk.telecom.

        As for you thinking that having a new prefix is a bad idea - perhaps you should have raised that concern in the first consultation. The current consultation is just intended to clear up any loose ends.

    • I'll finally be able to call the telephone numbers that are in European magazines.

      Yes, but those "ladies" advertizing in your magazines are still pretty unlikely to make a housecall to the US.

  • by cardpuncher ( 713057 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @07:06AM (#10175593)
    As most people in the UK who get broadband do so via their (regulated) phone line, regulating VoIP too would be overkill: most people will still have their emergency service via their regular phone and be able to make other calls in the same way.

    When/if there is significant competition for the "last mile", I'm sure regulation will be revisited.
  • What's next, American public schools that teach and don't allow bullying? Parents that actually take care of their kids? Lions that like to frollick in a pasture with sheep?
  • Stark contrast?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @08:14AM (#10175824) Homepage
    Oh come one, the US federal government has been bending over backwards to avoid taxes on VOIP. I hardly consider the contrast between the UK and the US to be "stark."

    • the issue is not taxing, it's that they want severely overburdensome 'features' built into voip allowing them to 'wiretap' (not a very good description for intercepting voice data in this manner) with impunity and ease.
  • No matter what those poor Americans do to try and stifle VoIP its not going to work because any legislation will appear to have been put in place to secure the existing monopolies.

    People will inevitably find offshore alternatives just like most of the big US corporations did! LOL!

    That should bring the democracy treat level to Holy Shit - Pink or whatever it is...
  • Naturally. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by base3 ( 539820 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @08:59AM (#10176076)
    You don't start squeezing the industry until it's reached a critical mass. Otherwise, you kill the golden goose before it's laid its first egg. By waiting and pretending you'll regulate lightly, you encourage investment. Once there's a lot of money sunk in, you can tax and tighten all you want, so long as there's an economic profit for the investors.
  • Is there a VoIP service in Canada that uses SIP phones?

    What I want, if I understand it correctly, is something that looks like a regular phone that I can plug into my home LAN, and use to dial regular phones anywhere else.

    Do these things work on a network with IP masquerading? I use a debian box for a gateway & firewall, I could do port forwarding or something if it were needed.

    The problem is finding a service I can use in Canada. Just try using Google to find products sold in Canada, or any oth

    • Try Vonage []. I live in Canada, and I have a Vonage phone for work. Free long distance to anywhere in US and Canada, for cheap. I haven't had any complaints with the service, either. The only times I've had trouble were when my ISP crapped out.
    • for VoIP, another option if you are in BC, Alberta or Ontario is to use 101-8888 dial-around service when making calls within North America.

      99cents for 45 minutes, 5 cents a minute thereafter, and you can also get free calls if you get lucky enough (we've been using this service for a couple weeks now and have received 2 free calls so far).

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein