8x8 (News - Alert) is trying to reach out to Utah, but it’s encountering a problem. The public service commission feels that unified communications (UC) should be regulated the same as landlines, which ultimately limits the flexibility of UC altogether.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, as a similar case emerged with the 2003 issue concerning Vonage (News - Alert) in Minnesota. It comes down to whether or not 8x8 is providing information or communications, which will determine how it can be regulated. VoIP sends voice data the same as it would any other Web traffic, but it is still people communicating by voice over long distances – the same as a phone call.
Even if 8x8 only has a few customers in the area, it still views this as a battle worth fighting, not only for the customers it has and will gain, but for the industry itself. If UC and VoIP are regulated and taxed the same as landline phones, the cost savings and ease of use become weakened.
“At the end of the day, I'm an engineer, and I think the Internet should be free,” explains Bryan Martin (News - Alert), chief executive of 8x8 in a recent interview with ZDNet. Martin views the company as pioneering the virtual communications landscape, while the public service commission is trying to limit global services.
“We are allowing, from any point on the Internet – your phone in your pocket, your phone on your desk, your Web browser, all of these things – you to access that data. Then we throw in hooks like video and video recording to the mix. From a media perspective, it's a cluttered world. Our customers value us for organizing that in one place.”
This may very well determine how future regulations treat VoIP, at least in the state of Utah. While it is still people communicating as they would over a phone, the data is sent in an entirely different way, and, in the opinion of many, should be treated the same as any other data sent via the Internet.
We shall see how the courts decide to rule, but it could prove extremely important to the future of UC. In the case of industry leader 8x8, what doesn’t kill the company only makes it stronger, and it is certainly putting up a good fight for the betterment of its customers – no matter how many.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo