The availability of next generation communications channels is something Americans have come to take for granted. We expect the next smartphone to offer even greater functionality; we demand the availability of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to reduce the cost of communications and streamline corporate interactions; and we look forward to the availability of fax VoIP on the network for easy archiving and document management.
In Ethiopia, however, such expectations could be met only for those willing to go against authorities. According to this nazret blog, a plan is in the works in this African country to criminalize VoIP, making it illegal to use services such as Skype (News - Alert) or Google Talk.
While this proposal may seem absurd to the U.S., authorities in Ethiopia view services such as fax VoIP as potential instances of telecom fraud. As a result, the proposed proclamation formerly known as the Proclamation on Telecom Fraud Offenses of 2012 seeks to address the issue.
VoIP and fax VoIP are considered threats in Ethiopia, as they are outside of Ethio Telecom, which has always been owned by the Ethiopian government. This provider has long held a monopoly on the digital economy there, with the government serving also as sole operator and regulator.
Therefore, VoIP has never been considered actually legal, but was not on the books as illegal, either. To say Skype was banned is really an understatement – it was never allowed. It is outside the control of the government and is therefore a threat and promotes fraudulent activity. This creates an interesting challenge for Ethiopian citizens as VoIP offers an alternative to the high cost of international dialing. And, while VoIP and fax VoIP have not been allowed, it is the debate over whether or not this technology can be considered a callback service that could render it illegal – if the proclamation is accepted into law.
It’s not uncommon for Ethiopians to use foreign callback services as they are a cheaper alternative to paying for the services provided via Ethio Telecom. The loss of profits for the telecom is driving the push to outlaw callback services – a practice already in place in a number of other countries.
As written, the proclamation describes VoIP and fax VoIP as a practice that is already illegal and even criminalized as they are services not provided by Ethio Telecom. Those targeted by the proclamation include Internet cafés and other businesses that allow the use of telecom services not provided by the government.
A Technical Taskforce is proposed with the proclamation to oversee the implementation and to use force whenever necessary to confiscate those items providing access to VoIP and fax VoIP services.
The key point here is that the services provided by Skype and other VoIP and fax VoIP companies are not yet illegal (check out this video) – the proclamation is seeking this status. The final draft is still in the House of People’s Representatives and has not yet passed.
FaxSIPit Services (News - Alert) Inc. will be exhibiting at the ITEXPO West 2012. To be held Oct. 2-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, ITEXPO (News - Alert) (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations.
Edited by Allison Boccamazzo