Europe VoIP group resists emergency-call regulations

Google, Intel, Microsoft, Skype try to persuade European regulators that VoIP providers should not have to provide access to emergency services.

A new lobby group has been set up in an attempt to influence the regulation of Internet telephony in Europe.

Voice on the Net Coalition Europe, which includes large suppliers like Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Skype, was launched on Friday in response to regulatory proposals made by the European Commission a month ago.

One of these proposals would require that voice over Internet Protocol providers enable calls to emergency services. The U.K.'s telecommunications regulator, the Office of Communications, has since mandated that such access must be made available by September 2008.

Leading VoIP providers, such as Skype, disagree with such proposals, arguing that VoIP is a complement to, rather than a replacement for, traditional telephony services.

According to a statement released on Friday, VON Coalition Europe "will work to educate, inform, and promote responsible government policies that enable innovation and the many benefits that Internet voice innovations can deliver."

"Internet-enabled communications are an entirely new genre of communications products, services, and applications and a new frontier in communications for individuals and businesses alike," said Stephen Collins, director of global governmental and regulatory affairs at Skype. "In order to unleash their vast benefits, policymakers need to embrace forward-thinking policy approaches."

"If we automatically subject this new technology to legacy telephone regulation, consumers, and business users could miss out on the new services, increased choices, better prices, and improved features that VoIP, for example, can deliver," Collins said.

In its statement, the coalition claimed that the "premature application" of emergency call rules to Web sites, click-to-dial services, one-way public switched telephone-network voice services, and other VoIP services that are not a replacement for traditional home or business phone services "could actually harm public safety, stifle innovations critical to people with disabilities, stall competition, and limit access to innovative and evolving communication options where there is no expectation of placing a 112 call."

The European Commission could offer no comment at the time of writing.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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