Why have a phone network?

"It's really about supporting the open source community, it's about branding, it's about lead generation. There are IT directors in the trixbox community rolling their own in their lab, and when they roll it out company wide they need us with them."

That's the question that constantly occurs to me when talking with folks like Fonality founder Chris Lyman.

Fonality today announced trixbox 2.0, a new version of its open source PBX software, featuring a new Graphical User Interface (GUI) to make installation and integration easier.

The irony here is that Fonality's business model is selling VOIP-based PBX systems, including phones. Improving the underlying technology sounds counterproductive. Not so, insisted Lyman.

"We send a pre-provisioned system you plug into your LAN. Trixbox is for the technically oriented. You have to buy your own phone and set it up. You have to buy a server and set it up, then install trixbox. It still takes some effort."

But doing its part within the community to keep improving trixbox means the community brings its own improvements in return. It's that synergy that powers open source, Lyman said.

"It's really about supporting the open source community, it's about branding, it's about lead generation. There are IT directors in the trixbox community rolling their own in their lab, and when they roll it out company wide they need us with them."

So why bother with a phone network. Maybe because, if the phone monopolies admitted they were just running IP networks, they would move even more aggressively against the principles of net neutrality.

"Net neutrality, or the privatization of the Internet, is a profit grab from the big companies and it's dangerous to all of us," Lyman said. Transport companies should just provide transport.

But telephony is a service, not transport. And if maintaining the fiction of a phone network keeps the Internet itself neutral for a few more years, maybe that is the price you pay.

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