Panama taxes VoIP services. VoIP is prohibited in Guyana. India inflicts strict limitations on VoIP calling. Ethiopia has criminalized VoIP services. Morocco has effectively blocked it, and so has much of the Middle East. The motivation behind these blockages may seem cloudy, yet the answers are actually quite clear – follow the money trail. The majority of these nations maintain a centralized telecommunications organization, and VoIP is significantly eroding the profitability of these groups to the point where the government is seeing a major shortage in funding. Instead of a philosophy of adaptation, leadership within these nations are attempting to block the natural progression of technology – and nowhere is that being seen as blatantly as in the nation of Nepal. Since 2009, when Nepal instigated a major crackdown on “illegal” VoIP centers, 89 VoIP providers have been raided and put out of business.
Nepal’s Central Intelligence Bureau
The CIB, or Central Intelligence Bureau, is responsible for conducting raids on illegal VoIP centers within the nation’s borders. 141 operators have been arrested since 2009, and “Operation Voice Fox,” as the movement is being called, has contributed to financial penalties in the billions of Rupees, as well as oppressive jail sentences for many involved.
These arrest led to the incarceration of 105 Nepali individuals and 36 foreigners – with the majority of those coming from the nation of Bangladesh. But why ground does the Nepalese government have to stand on? And why are they so concerned with VoIP operators in the region? The answer is simple – revenues.
Telecommunications Act of 1997
Nepal passed the Telecommunications Act of 1997 and has worked vigilantly to enforce its strict parameters. The provisions of the act state that anyone who is caught intentionally causing damage or adverse affects to the telecommunications structure of the nation will be liable for a fine or jail time, or both.
During enforcement actions over the past few years, CIB officials and Nepalese police have rounded up tens of thousands of SIM cards and high-tech communications equipment, and have levied fines in the billions upon these suspected operators. Again, revenue losses are the main culprit that are driving these enforcement actions, but there is also another concern for many nations that have enacted strict VoIP guidelines – terrorism. Countries are concerned that the ability to monitor phone calls for potential terrorist activity might be limited if the call is made over an Internet connection, versus a traditional land line phone configuration. While this may have some merit, experts agree that the real reason behind the VoIP limitation is likely a monetary concern.
Raids are being conducted around the world, with officials searching for purported illegal VoIP activity in the hopes of preserving revenue dollars for largely nationalized telecom companies. With countless organizations converting their phone systems from old-fashioned landlines to VoIP services, there is no doubt that VoIP is the future. The question is, who will stand in the way of progress, and who will support the next step in communications?