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China announces Skype ban to protect telco revenues

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China has banned Skype and other Western VoIP providers in a move designed to stop the services from eroding the profits of traditional telecoms operators in the country, China Telecom and China Unicom.

The decision was made by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology but no date for its implementation was announced, the Peoples' Daily reports. Skype denied knowledge of the impending ban. "“Users in China currently can access Skype via TOM Online, our majority JV partner," the eBay subsidiary told Mashable, via a statement.

Other countries, including Panama, have tried to outlaw VoIP services for similar economically protectionist reasons. However such bans are difficult to enforce in practice because there are always workarounds, at least for tech savvy users. China is a world leader in censoring the net, routinely restricting access to smut and politically objectionable content under the guise of protecting its netizens from malware and other security threats. Even so blocking Western VoIP services while simultaneously allowing internet telephony services from local suppliers may be difficult to pull off in practice. China may however be able to curtail mainstream access to these services.

If China decides to prohibit Skype the P2P VoIP service will join a long list of officially disavowed internet services that already includes Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, among others. ®

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