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February 16, 2007
By Joshua Seidemann
I returned from an ISP show a couple of years ago sporting a new baseball cap and drinking from a new mug. A surprised friend of mine asked, Theyre still giving away swag? He, along with others, I suppose, had been deflated by the tech bust of the new millennium and had become accustomed, sadly, to the marked decrease in t-shirts, footballs, night-lights and other goodies hawked by exhibitors pushing their latest wares.
But hope springs eternal.
Friends, the swag is back. Not everywhere, mind you; a conference I attended in Atlanta last year boasted only some bowls of Hersheys kisses and glossy brochures. But, a recent IP expo in Florida featured the full panoply weve come to love: pens, Rubiks Cubes, basketballs, travel mugs even free beer in the exhibition hall and a Harley Davidson give away.
So whats to account for the new confidence and, if youll excuse the pun, swagger?
Maybe its a recognition that a refined business model is emerging.
IP communications services have suffered as their regulatory fate has hung suspended like the sword of Damocles. Access charges? Franchise requirements? Contributions to universal service? All of these could chip away at a providers bottom line, rendering meaningless the price advantage IP providers could tout against their wired counterparts. That construct is changing.
If the early days of IP communications were about arbitrage, the current climate is all about the features. One VoIP provider explained that his company is no longer looking to be the lowest-priced provider on the block but is rather looking to provide the biggest punch for the buck.
As for the regulatory landscape, that too is becoming clearer. The FCC has issued quite narrow VoIP decisions that still fail to provide an ultimate (even if for the short-term) answer to IP classification issues. But, the FCC has spoken to social causes, ruling that interconnected VoIP providers must contribute to USF and provide E911 capabilities. Further, companies utilizing IP in the middle must meet their intercarrier obligations in the same manner as their wireline brethren.
So, whats to account for the swag? Confidence, and clarity. Regulatory uncertainty is being steamrolled by business models that can accommodate the cost of government intervention.
In the long run, thats good news for everyone. Technology will develop, and costs should drop as implementation becomes widespread; the government retains and promotes its social interest in public safety and the viability of the telecommunications network.
And for tech show groupies? A reprieve from wardrobe and cheap gift shopping.
Joshua Seidemann is a telecom industry attorney.
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