The past year has seen an explosion of VoIP software providers and users of their services. Telecommunications costs are prohibitive in many countries where inequality and poverty levels are high. Broadly speaking, any technology that facilitates inexpensive communication is crucial in these economies. VoIP services decrease the direct cost on the consumer, allowing for greater economic and social mobility. In many countries, business and politics are intertwined, for example government ownership of telecommunications providers, presenting conflicts of interest that stifle the emergence of innovative solutions and prioritize the interests of the corporation(s) at the expense of the people.
We advocate for this important session under this year's subtheme of 'policies enabling access and the digital economy. Psiphon and ASL19's analysis of numerous VoIP blocking cases this year reveals several key insights which form the impetus of this workshop: (1) on the basis they cannot monitor and surveil these communication tools, governments leverage national security laws to justify reactive censorship measures; (2) national level policy or legislation is often incommensurate with internationally-upheld principles of Internet freedom, such as Article 19; (3) there is great confusion over which companies can operate VoIP calling services and where, due to operating license requirements and interpretations of net neutrality; (4) users will undermine blocking, responding to large-scale censorship of VoIP services by turning to trusted circumvention tools to restore access; and (5) this grey area in Internet governance must be discussed and resolved in multistakeholder setting between government, telecom, civil society, and the technical community.
- Pablo Viollier, Derechos Digitales
- Hanane Boujemi, Hivos
- Peter Micek, AccessNow
- Robert Pepper, Facebook
- Amin Jobran, ASL19
- Halefom Hailu Abraha, Information Network Security Agency (INSA), Ethiopia