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No simple answers.

Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, seems to be the talk of the town, these days. It is yet another technology that managers of rural telcos must consider when determining the breadth of the services they intend to provide.

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And while on the surface it may seem like an uncomplicated decision, to give or not to give customers the option of making calls over the Internet, it actually is loaded with potentially problematic factors. There's the, if-we-don't-provide-it-some-one-else-will dilemma versus the loss-of-access-minutes-from-toll-carriers problem, coupled with the reduction-of-contributions-to-the-Universal-Service-Fund reality.

In the article, "VOIP: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," writer Rachel Brown talks to NTCA members about their thinking on the technology and reports that there's no easy answer. For every plus there's a minus, for every negative, a positive.

Also in this issue, NTCA spoke with Hilda Gay Legg, administrator for the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). Legg has journeyed far from her rural hometown in Kentucky to Washington, D.C., but her rural roots are never far behind.

In the article, "Hilda Gay Legg: Carrying Out RUS's Mission," Legg shares her vision for the RUS programs and underscores the important role rural telcos play in serving their communities. She also discusses the agency's stepped-up efforts to open communications with the Federal Communications Commission, the privatization of the Rural Telephone Bank, and the lingering budget strains in wake of September 1, 2001.

The events of that day continue to resound throughout the country in a myriad of ways, not the least of which is the unprecedented focus on homeland security. As with many aspects of American life, rural telcos can play an important part in helping to ensure security across the far reaches of the country.

In the article, "Protecting the Homeland: The Role of Rural Telcos," authors Maureen Rhemann and Joe Rhemann discuss the unique position telcos are in to help secure connectivity in the most remote of communities. "In as much as rural telcos will be sought out in broad efforts to complete infrastructures, this is an opportune time for cooperatives to hone their marketing skills and become familiar with funding flows and longterm opportunities," they write.

And while opportunities seem to present themselves in various forms, so do obstacles. The entertainment industry has reinvigorated its efforts to stop the unlawful dissemination of music and movies over the Internet, but it is often the Internet service provider that gets caught in the middle of this legal battlefield.

In the article, "P2P and the ISP: The Ins and Outs of File-sharing Liability," attorney Gerard Duffy discusses the cases that brought the industry to this point, and gives ISPs a briefing on their rights and ways to protect themselves from such legal wranglings.

In the vein, attorney Steven Lustig provides some basic information on copyright law in the article, "Seeking Safe Harbor: ISPs and the Copyright Law." Lustig notes that, while the law does provide protection for ISPs when it comes to potential copyright violations, it's up to the provider to ensure continued compliance with the law.

This issue of the magazine also recaps NTCA's 50th Annual Meeting, held in Miami Beach, Fla., in early February. The article reviews this milestone meeting, which commemorated NTCA's golden anniversary and the association's long history of service.

From POTS to DSL to VoIP, in the past 50 years the acronyms have accumulated as technologies have advanced. Seldom is the question of what service to provide clear-cut and easy. Demand, competition and return on investment are but a handful of the considerations that must be taken into account. But for rural telcos, forgoing the best telecom options for their customers is not an option.

Shary Denes

Editorial Manager
COPYRIGHT 2004 National Telephone Cooperative Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:From the Editor; Voice over Internet protocol
Author:Denes, Shary
Publication:Rural Telecommunications
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Words:615
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