Ive been reading about and following the emergence of VoIP (Voice over IP) services since their inception and have also seen various voice-over-the-Internet initiatives come and go. The investment in those expensive old phone switches and the desire of phone companies to keep them running are the biggest of many roadblocks to the full implementation of VoIP. If you wonder why DSL services have often deteriorated, it is because good DSL invites VoIP. Bad DSL, on the contrary, keeps it at bay. This, to me, explains the fact that cable modems have continued to hold and even gain in market share.
If you read the literature, you will see that concerns over FCC regulations regarding the linking of VoIP to the PSTN (public switched telephone network) are also keeping VoIP from moving quickly. Maybe its time to set up a second tier of services that has nothing to do with the PSTN. If you want to call someone on a PSTN system, then use a cell phone. If computer users all agreed on a set standard for PC/Internet-based phone services, most of us could easily connect for free, especially if quality-of-service protocols were implemented. Just a thought.
Much of the concern always centers around the 911 red herring. When I was a kid, there was no 911 service. We called the cops directly. For other kinds of emergencies, wed dial zero (even easier than 911) and tell the operator to get an ambulance or whatever was required. Somewhere along the way, the operators started earning too much money and had to be downsized. Now theyre in Bangalore. Id love to look into the history of 911 services, because I suspect they were implemented to save money, not as a real public service.
Have you ever used 911? They foul up all the time. The system is not effective for many emergencies. I would much rather call a smart local operator, but they are all gone. Now 911 is a convenient foil to ward off VoIP. Also, you will note that there wasnt much of a complaint during the mobile phone revolution about 911 until VoIP began to emerge as a threat to the phone companies. They had to shore up their defenses by making sure that cell phones had some sort of 911 capability, although they had been operating cellular services without it for years and years. Agh.
Meanwhile, a number of schemes have sprung up related to 802.11e, which is the quality-of-service working group that should find a way to enable voice communications over 802.11a/b/g networks. This will be interesting, especially in venues such as hotels in which 802.11 networks are now being installed helter-skelter.
Over the years, hotels have seen their profit margins from telecommunications services fall because of cell phones. Nobody in their right mind would use the phone in a hotel room anymore, because the hotels are gouging their customers on phone use. This is a trend that began about 15 or 20 years ago. A simple call to say hello to the family could run you $25.