Tuesday, January 11, 2005

NO kangaroos in Austria 

During my last post I googled Australia and ENUM and found the following entry on
Steven Forrest's weblog about the often troublesome intersection of regulation and technology innovation:

Troublesome is true - I should send him a T-shirt ;-)

Australia Rolls Out ENUM Services; U.S. "Stalled"

While ENUM - they tying of telephone numbers to Internet Protocol addresses, a potential boon to the growth of Internet telephony - is described as "stalled" in the United States, it is being rolled out in Australia "with a light regulatory hand," according to a story published April 12 in Washington Internet Daily, an online newsletter. One would hope U.S. regulators would watch and learn from the Australians.

The story isn't available from the newsletter's website, but is available via Lexis-Nexis. Here is a very brief excerpt...

Austria is ready to be "first to jump the cliff" into commercial e-numbering (ENUM) services, Internet Foundation Austria (IPA) Chmn. Michael Haberler told us. A 2-year commercial phase will launch this year, overseen by the country's Broadcasting & Telecom Regulatory Authority (RTR) and with NIC.at providing registry services, said Georg Serentschy, RTR managing dir.-telecom section. The plan flies in the face of claims ENUM isn't ready for prime time in Europe because technical and regulatory issues aren't resolved. Because no one knows how ENUM will develop, Serentschy said Thurs., regulators are exerting a light touch.

ENUM activities don't fall within Austria's telecom act because it specifically excludes domain names from RTR's authority, Serentschy said. However, he said, early on the govt. applied for .3.4.e164.arpa for its ENUM domain name because it recognized the relationship between telephone numbers and ENUM services. As the domain owner, RTR sets rules for its use.

Austria ran an ENUM trial, but it's shifting to a commercial rollout in the late 3rd quarter or early 4th quarter, Serentschy said. The phase is limited to 2 years because "one of the things we want to find out" is what the ENUM service will look like, he said. NIC.at will have the right to operate the registry during that time, he said, but if ENUM proves popular, others may be allowed to bid on providing registry services. Extensive discussion in the U.S. has concerned whether there should be multiple registries as well as registrars. Austria is most likely to go with a single registry and several registrars, Serentschy said, but it depends on the market. It's not clear who will be most interested in ENUM - consumers, businesses or both, he said. Until that's known, the govt. doesn't want to overload the emerging service with regulatory constraints, he said.

The only regulatory action the govt. has taken is to dedicate a new number range - 780 - for ENUM services, Serentschy said.

U.S. regulators ought to watch what Australia is doing - and not doing - about ENUM, and learn from it.

As Computer Business Review reported April 7:

Public deployment of ENUM, the three-year-old standard for using telephone numbers over the internet, is still a way off in the US, despite the fact that many people think it will be an essential component of widespread voice over IP adoption.

The US government came out in favor of accelerating ENUM plans in February 2003, but little has happened since, as the telecommunications, cable and internet industries try to hammer out the details of how implementation should happen.

Interested parties organized into a group called the ENUM Forum have agreed that the best way to introduce ENUM in the US would be to form a limited liability corporation, which would receive contractual authority to run ENUM from the government.

But there is still disagreement over how the ENUM registries contracting with this LLC would be required to operate. The complex issue takes into account political boundaries and competition and revenue concerns.

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