Skype in compliance with Chinese law

09:23, January 05, 2011      

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Skype's partner in China, TOM Group, said the web-based calling service is complying with Chinese law, even as a crackdown on illegal Internet telephone providers could complicate Skype's operations in the country.

"The operation of Skype in China is compliant with local laws and regulations," a TOM Group spokeswoman told Reuters Tuesday. "Currently, it is business as usual while service provision stays normal."

The Ministry of Information and Industry Technology called in a notice on December 10 for a crackdown "on illegal VoIP telephone services" and said it was collecting evidence for legal cases against them. It did not identify any companies.

While that could affect VoIP services such as Skype, and privately owned UUCall and Heyyo!, analysts said it was far from clear what companies were being targeted or how strictly authori-ties would enforce any limits.

"Often these crackdowns are focused on the small domestic companies," said Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting, a Beijing-based company that advises businesses on China's telecom and IT industries.

The Chinese regulator did not respond to a list of questions about its announcement. "I think it would be hard for MIIT to really enforce things," said Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA Consulting, a Beijing-based technology consultancy. "They would be depriving tens of millions of people of their cheap phone calls."

"It smacks of protectionism for Chinese telcos," added Clark. "That's something I think the government is sensitive to. Sometimes they put these trial balloons out there to see the reaction."

Gartner's Shen said the only way to enforce the ban would be for the government to block access to Skype by shutting down the website, but she sees it as unlikely given that it would be politically unpopular among China's online community.

Source: Global Times
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