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The Telephony business is about to be turned on its ear by a nerd-cool technology, known as WebRTC.

Telephony around the world was built, and operates on the old voice paradigm – monthly subscription fees and per minute costs. But that’s about to change.

Today, voice is perfectly happy riding on the internet, it’s just another app. Many of us use it daily on Skype, Google Hangouts, Vonage and a host of other cloud-based phone services that have rapidly displaced the land line.

WebRTC is disruptive because it brings together voice, video, IM Chat, SMS-texting, presence, file-sharing and exceptional security with omnipresent peer-to-peer connections under direct control from your browser.

WebRTC is designed to interface with every PBX or hosted telephone system. No hardware, telephone switches or software downloads are required. It’s an open source, non-proprietary protocol that suggests easy use, integration and application creation.

This new protocol lets you make calls to and from the PSTN, or not. Point-to-point peered voice sessions can be setup with or without a telephone number. You can use a desk phone but you don’t need one, because WebRTC works on our PCs, tablets and smart-phones now.AAEAAQAAAAAAAANjAAAAJGZmMmZlMTM2LTMzZmItNGQ5OS05OTQwLWI0NWQ4OGMxNzk3MQ

WebRTC - The Web Real-Time Communication project was launched by Google in May 2011. Presently, it works with Chrome, Firefox or Opera browsers. No native support exists within Microsoft IE or Apple Safari browsers, but some plug-ins do.

[Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion. Apple is reported top heavywith $178 billion in cash].

One can only imagine that soon, and for the rest of our lives, monthly service fees and per-minute calls will go the way of the Dodo bird. I'll miss the Dodo bird more.

The only bad news is; WebRTC’s uses aren't commercially baked, yet therein lays the opportunity.


2015 Google WebRTC update video – Time: 25:51



A billion of anything is a whole lot! A billion grains of sand would fill a dump truck… a billion dollars could stretch around the world 4 times.

If you want to count to one billion, plan to dedicate 31 years, 251 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes, at the rate of 1 per second.

A billion seconds is a terrific milestone to celebrate. It’s a great opportunity to throw a unique birthday party for someone you love or want to impress.

Most of us will see a billion seconds pass in our lifetime. Many will celebrate it twice and with a little luck, perhaps even a 3rd time before becoming eligible for a Willard Scott, Smucker’s segment.

If you’re a Telecom geek you’ll want to recognize a billion seconds of Competitionin the telephone industry by setting your alarm to September 9, 2015 at 1:46:40 AM EST.

The countdown started on January 1st, 1984 at the stroke of midnight. That’s when Federal Judge Harold Greene busted the world’s largest monopoly – AT&T.

In its heyday, AT&T was more affectionately known as “Ma Bell”. During the first 100 years Ma Bell enjoyed favored protection most of the time, allowing it to dominate the budding telephone industry.

However, there was a 20-year period between 1893 and 1913 when competitive forces thrived in America. Bell’s Patent protection expired in 1893, opening the door for more than 6,000 new phone companies. They began competing and succeeding for market share across the US. By 1912 the small independent phone companies served over half of 8-million US telephone subscribers.

Then, the Steve Jobs of his era, Thomas Vail was convinced to return to save AT&T’s crumbling business from certain demise. Vail had known that AT&T’s profits, service and satisfaction had fallen dramatically, yet remarkably Vail focused on convincing the US government that AT&T should be regulated.

Conjured in a brilliant stroke of genius, Vail promoted his concept and motto; “One policy, One system, and Universal service.”

In 1913, as World War-I loomed, Uncle Sam sanctioned AT&T’s monopoly with exclusive territories and guaranteed reasonable profits. Veiled in his mastermind plan was Vail’s real plan; to circumvent reasonable profits, in the name of national security by mandating equipment be purchased only from Western Electric, a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. Since all the money went in to the same coffers the Bell System quickly became the largest corporation in the world. Competition was squeezed from the landscape for the next 71 years.

One billion seconds hence, we all delight in the fruits of free-spirited innovation. It’s a stark contrast from the days when choice meant choosing the color of our Trimline™ phone.

From imagination to creativity, the freedom to compete fairly has always been a catalyst to invention.

Congratulations Competitive Telecom!

Keep the Internet Open and Unregulated

Keep the Internet Open and Unregulated

This piece was originally published in the Baltimore Sun on November 20, 2014.

On March 26, 1979, AT&T security personnel in the company of Maryland State troopers raided A.A. Answering Telephone Service in Bel Air. It was my business and my home. Police confiscated electronic equipment I had been using to provide flat rate long distance service to 150 local customers since 1976.

Immediately after the raid, AT&T which was operating in my area as the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, sent notices to each of my customers advising them that their answering service would be disconnected in 30 days. AT&T’s complaint against me was my little company was competing with the monopoly for their telephone business. Though I tried, I did not have the financial wherewithal to sustain a legal battle against the giant. I was not charged with a crime, but I was nonetheless put out of business and ultimately lost my home. My experience that day in 1979 became a precursor to the 1984 landmark decision that broke up the telephone monopoly and opened the U.S. telecommunications industry to competitive market forces.

And now AT&T is at it again along with its corporate colleagues Comcast and Verizon trying to monopolize traffic on the Internet with a toll booth scheme that will eliminate competition and stifle the kind of innovation that created the Internet in the first place. For me, it’s deja vu all over again.

The Federal Communications Commission is contemplating establishing new rules that would in effect put the brakes on monopolization of the net and redefine broadband as a utility. I say have at it. This is a good time to recognize that the competitive telecom industry is merely 30 years removed from the former Bell monopoly. It’s a particularly notable milestone for those of us who owe our livelihood to telecom competition. Perhaps it’s also a good time to remember what’s changed in three decades of competition and innovation.

Within 30 years, the personal portable phone morphed into 6.8 billion smart phones. In just the last 20 years, the World Wide Web exploded, changing the way we communicate through browsing, searching, emailing, texting, chatting, tweeting and more. How much of that would even exist today had the telephone company break-up not occurred?

In the 1970s, Bell Labs conceived cellular telephone network design, but the technology did not exist to make it happen. At least two companies set out to build it. AT&T’s monopolistic mindset was to improve on developing the car phone network, giving it non-operator assisted call completion and greater capacity. Then Marty Cooper of Motorola, inspired by Captain Kirk’s Star Trek communicator, envisioned a hand-held phone because he realized people didn’t want to go from being tied to their land lines to being tied to their car phones. In 1983, the Motorola DynaTac™ portable phone was released and the rest is history.

Thirty years ago, the U.S. telephone monopoly was divested into 30 companies with the aim of limiting the power of one and encouraging competition among many. Today, these 30 companies have coalesced into six dominant carriers who still control exclusive service territories. These are the carriers that want to develop so-called “fast lanes.”

On the other hand, net neutrality proponents want to govern Internet service under Title II of the 80-year old Communications Act of 1934 originally conceived to regulate voice services. Perhaps another option, rewriting the Communications Act to 2014 relevance, should be considered.

Remaining neutral by keeping the Internet open and unregulated has already proven to be the best way to encourage innovation and fair competition. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Telephone Is 50,000 Days Old

The Telephone Is 50,000 Days Old

January 30, 2014 marked 50,000 days since the invention of the telephone.

Did anyone notice this noble birthday? Not really. But it's a significant milestone, one that deserves a bit of reflection.

What would the world be like if the telephone had never been invented?

For one thing, there would be no smartphones, perhaps no texting or even the Web. The whole notion of communicating with people down the street and around the world might not even exist in our minds.

Of course, part of this conversation is based on a simple twist of wording. If I told you the phone was 136 years, 10 months and 21 days old, you would most likely yawn. 50,000 days sounds so much more notable.

Hear my voice.

Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson achieved the first telephonic transmission of the human voice on March 10, 1876. For people like me whose livelihood relies on telecommunications technologies, we are grateful that Alexander Graham Bell discovered how to make “voice” dance on electrons over vast distances, at the speed of light.

To this day, the average human being has no idea how this works. When your iPhone rings and the caller is in a small town 850 miles away, do you have any idea how his voice travels through thin air - nearly instantly - to where you are?

Most people agree that Bell's invention ranks among the most important human innovations. So you might be surprised to learn that it wasn't an instant hit.

Interesting, but why would I need it?

As remarkable as it may seem, Bell’s invention was at first perceived as a circus side-show novelty.

In the first years after their invention, Bell and Watson collaborated on East Coast road shows to demonstrate their talking telegraph invention. Bell traveled to town halls packed with enthusiastic people who wanted to see and hear this miraculous new technology. Of course, no one actually had a telephone yet, so they had to set up the connections for each demonstration.

Bell’s demonstrations relied on Western Union telegraph lines and Watson’s ability to project his voice sufficiently while repeatedly singing “Hold the Fort” and other little ditties to mesmerize audiences miles away.

Telephone Trivia

  • Bell’s telephone patent application was filed on Valentine’s Day 1876. Elisha Gray (his name doesn't ring a bell, does it?) filed for a patent of his telephone invention a few hours after Bell.
  • Bell proposed that the telephone should be answered, “Ahoy”, proving that inventors often don't have a clue how the public will actually use their inventions.
  • Before the telephone was invented, people communicated by smoke signals, letters, pigeons, pony express, floating bottles and lanterns.
  • Today, according to World Bank statistics, there are 95 phones for every 100 humans on the earth, and that’s just counting mobile phones.

Stay tuned... in 2149 on Christmas Eve, the telephone will be 100,000 days old. Perhaps we will be able to phone other planets - or civilizations - by then.