This issue of “What is…?” provides a brief look at the emerging technology of datacasting, and considers some of the regulatory and legal issues that are raised by this new form of broadcasting. In Australia the ability to datacast is becoming a hot topic, not least because it is expected to be included in the upcoming media industry reforms. (more…)

Last week, a Joint hearing of the Subcommittees on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations and Asia and the Pacific (part of the House International Relations Committee) of the U.S. Congress was held on the involvement of U.S. firms (including Yahoo! and Google, as has been discussed in earlier posts) in upholding China’s oppressive regulation of the Internet in that country. The hearings are interesting not only for the particular points raised, but for the question it raises on who is responsible for putting pressure on oppressive regimes: private sector firms or the governments that represent them? (more…)

This edition of “What is..?” considers VoIP, otherwise known as Internet telephony or IP telephony. VoIP, which stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol”, refers to the transmission of voice telephone calls over the Internet or any other IP-based network. VoIP systems use packet-switched networks to route and transmit voice calls, rather than the circuit-switching systems used by “traditional” voice telecommunications services.

This article provides an introduction to VoIP, including how it differs from traditional telephony services, and considers some of the regulatory issues raised by providing voice telephony over the Internet. While today VoIP might appear to be a niche product, it is in fact threatening to change the structure of the telephony industry, and is evidence of convergence between the Internet and telecommunications. (more…)

Is ICANN’s control of Internet governance at an end? Representatives from the European Union and other countries are lobbying for this to be true. At the recent World Summit of the Information Society, organised by the United Nations in Geneva, several countries argued that the allocation of domain names and similar tasks be run by an international body, rather than by ICANN in conjuction with the US government. Such a change would be a radical shift from the current policy, and it is not altogether clear which option would have the best results. (more…)

Since online auctioneer eBay agreed to purchase Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider Skype Technologies for $2.6 billion in cash plus eBay stock, industry analysts have been wondering why. Skype, which allows Internet users wth broadband connections to talk from computer-to-computer anywhere in the world for free, and from computer-to-phone at a deep discount from any rates offered by traditional telecommunications companies, is an example of how VoIP, also called IP telephony or Internet telephony, is revolutionising the telecommunications industry. The focus in the news has been on why an online auctioneer would want to pay this much for a telephony company. Equally interesting are the questions for regulatory policy. (more…)

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