Cold War rules threaten VoIP exports

Cold War rules threaten VoIP exports


Just when you thought the Cold War was really over …

Laws passed in the middle part of the 20th Century can conceivably have a huge chilling effect on the export of VoIP equipment, not just any equipment howerver, just those that have built-in technology to encrypt its conversations. Because a VoIP call involves an Internet conversation, it is inherently covered by less security than other phone calls, other than outright wiretapping. Because of this heightened vulnerability, VoIP product manufacturers are always looking for technologically advanced ways to keep their customers’ conversations free from prying ears.

Specifically, section 740 of the U.S. federal export regulations puts the clamps on the export of products that allow encryption methods that exceed 250 connections at once. That might not sound like a lot, until you factor in the nature of today’s cutting-edge modems and server software, which can handle simulatenous connections numbering in the thousands.

Those kinds of machines and capabilities are being made by the hundreds these days, and their functionalities are increasing faster than Moore’s Law predicted that they would. The VoIP bandwagon has lots of people jumping aboard these days, and that number is only going to get larger.

Technically, it’s against the law to export such equipment. Similar situations in the past have raised red flags and necessitated export permits for processors and video game systems. Whether federal officials choose to enforce those export regulations for VoIP and, subsequently, punish those who violate them remains to be seen.