Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
and the Convergence of Communications Technologies
Welcoming Remarks by Nancy J. Victory,
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Information and Communications, and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
As Prepared for Delivery
February 12, 2003
Good afternoon and welcome to NTIA's Roundtable on Voice over Internet Protocol and the Convergence of Communications Technologies. I'm glad you could all make it over here today because we've got an exciting afternoon planned for you. I also want to welcome all of the folks who are watching us on the live webcast -- thanks for tuning in. Now, I know some of you may be a bit pre-occupied with an obscure, little proceeding over at the FCC called the Triennial Review. But rest assured, we're going to have a lively debate here about a much more interesting subject called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.
So what's all the fuss about VoIP? Well, as you'll hear in a moment, VoIP is an emerging technology that bridges what were once two separate worlds: voice and data. As its name implies, VoIP allows voice communications to travel over Internet Protocol networks -- networks that were once used exclusively for data. This convergence of voice and data technologies has the potential to create new efficiencies in the way networks are designed and operated. It also opens up opportunities for innovative new products and services that can spur economic growth and increase consumer welfare. More fundamentally, VoIP challenges traditional regulatory paradigms, which will force policymakers to re-examine their approaches to telecommunications and information regulation.
Why, you might ask, is NTIA interested in VoIP? At NTIA, we serve as the President's principal advisor on telecommunications and information policy. Among other things, we have a statutory mission to study the impact of the convergence of computer and communications technology. Back in August 2002, we held a similar roundtable discussion on ENUM, an emerging technology that maps telephone numbers to Internet addresses. Later this year, we'll be hosting additional roundtables on other new technologies. Our overall goals are to foster a better understanding of how theses technologies work, to find out how the markets are developing, to identify the major issues that will arise for regulators and policymakers, and to stimulate an open and productive dialogue between all of the interested stakeholders.
So on to the agenda for today. In our first session, we'll have brief presentations from some of our in-house VoIP experts. Dr. Robert Stafford, who works for NTIA at our Institute for Telecommunication Sciences in Boulder, Colorado, is going to give us an overview of VoIP. He'll describe how VoIP works and what it's used for. Next, Karen Hogan, the Deputy Chief Information Officer at the Department Commerce, will describe the Department's new VoIP telephone system. She'll briefly tell us how the system works and what it can do.
I want to provide a word of caution about these first two presentations. The presentations are designed to familiarize you with VoIP terms and features, and to provide a simple, easy-to-understand overview of how VoIP works. The presentations are not meant in any way to be the government's official position on VoIP, so please don't interpret them that way.
In our second session, Deputy Assistant Secretary Mike Gallagher and my senior advisor, Jack Zinman, will moderate a panel discussion on the VoIP marketplace. The panel of industry representatives and other experts will discuss current and future trends affecting VoIP services, service providers, equipment vendors, and consumers.
In our third and final session, I will moderate a panel discussion on the regulatory and policy affects of VoIP, together with Jack Zinman. The panel will explore how VoIP is going to impact a variety of issues, including intercarrier compensation, universal service, numbering, and other areas.
Before we begin, I want to thank all of the participants in today's roundtable. We greatly appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to come share your insights and expertise.
So without further delay, I would like to introduce Dr. Robert Stafford. Dr. Stafford received his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech and joined NTIA's Institute for Telecommunication Sciences in 1993. He is currently a member of the ITS wireless network research center where, among other things, he investigates air-interface wireless network metrology and the effects of wired and wireless network transmission on Voice over IP packets.