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28953Costa Rica May Criminalize VoIP

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  • John French
    Mar 1, 2005
      Forgive the length of this news report (copied under Fair Use Guidelines):

      Costa Rica May Criminalize VoIP

      By W. David Gardner, TechWeb.com

      The growing surge in international VoIP calls has caused the state-owned
      telecommunications monopoly in Costa Rica to propose legislation that could
      criminalize the use of Internet telephone calls.

      The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) said that it views VoIP
      as a value-added telecom service and, as such, it should be regulated. At
      its most Draconian, the proposal would make Internet telephoning a crime.

      One Costa Rican official of an agency seeking to promote the Central
      American country's software industry said last week that ICE's proposal
      would be "disastrous" to the country's efforts to grow its software
      development and outsourcing businesses. The official, who asked that his
      name not be used, noted that Costa Rica has been rapidly growing its
      outsourcing business and low-cost telephone service is crucial to the
      growth of that business.

      ICE is a telecommunications monopoly. While some have criticized it for
      stifling competition, it has established efficient telephone service
      throughout the Costa Rica, which is rapidly-emerging from third world
      status. Market research studies have noted that some 78 percent of software
      developers in the Central American and Caribbean region are located in
      Costa Rica,

      The ICE proposal was first reported in "La Nacion," the country's national
      newspaper, which noted that some 20 percent of the country's international
      calls are made using VoIP technology. The use of Skype Technologies'
      peer-to-peer Web calling is widespread and other VoIP services including
      U.S. VoIP pacesetter Vonage are also used to make and receive calls to and
      from the Central American nation.

      Claudio Bermudez, ICE deputy director, was quoted by La Nacion as follows:
      "VoIP, which is characterized as a telephone service, is a
      (telecommunications) carrier and substitute telephone service, and as such
      uses the public telecommunications infrastructure."

      The question of VoIP and whether it should be regulated as a telephone
      service or left unregulated as a data service has been hotly debated for
      several months in the U.S. Most governmental agencies and courts have ruled
      that Internet phoning is a data service that should not be regulated.

      Earlier this month, Vonage complained to the U.S. Federal Communications
      Commission that its service had been blocked by a high-speed ISP.

      To date, there is no evidence that the ICE has blocked any VoIP service in
      Costa Rica.