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Developing nations have pushed through programmes to curtail Internet telephony, in moves designed to protect the revenues of incumbent telecoms operators.

The government of Panama has ordered ISPs to block 24 UDP ports in order to implement its ban on VoIP (voice over IP) services, Linux Admin (which broke the story earlier this month) reports. This blanket ban would frustrate corporate use of IP telephone and curtail its use where telcos only transit VoIP traffic through the central American country.

Under the proposals, this traffic would also be blocked when it hit a Panamanian router or firewall.

The decree apparently stems from complaints by Cable & Wireless Panama, the incumbent operator, which says it is "losing money due to users employing the Internet to make otherwise expensive international telephone calls", Linux Admin reports.

Cable & Wireless Panama is a joint venture between the Panamanian government and London-based international telecom operator Cable & Wireless. Cable & Wireless said the decision to curtail VoIP services was made by local regulators who are trying to curtail services from unlicensed operators. It added that C&W offers Internet telephony services to businesses in other countries, where the technology is legally approved.

UDP blocked by Panama's October 25 decree include: 1034, 1035, 2090, 2091, 5000, 6801, 6802, 6803, 9900, 9901, 12080, 12120, 12122, 22555, 26133, 30582, 35061, 38000, 38100, 38200, 47563, 48310, 51200, and 51201. There's scope to extend the ban, which already has the potential to disrupt numerous other services (including Telnet and others too numerous to list here).

The decree seems to be very badly thought out. Panamanian ISPs, to their credit, are protesting that the whole scheme is unworkable.

Panama is far from the only country clamping down on VoIP services. CNet reports that an April 2002 study by the Boston University School of Law Review found that Argentina, Cuba, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Mexico and South Africa also have measures in place to curtail use of the technology.

After a painfully slow gestation, IP telephony services are poised to grow across the world - at least in places where they aren't banned.

Analysts Frost & Sullivan forecasts VoIP traffic in Europe, the Middle East and Africa will reach 57 billion minutes by 2008. ®

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