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The Internet and IP-based networks are
increasingly being used as alternatives to the public switched
telephone network. Internet
Telephony Service Providers (ITSPs) can provide voice and fax
services which are close to becoming functionally equivalent
to those provided by public telecommunication operators (PTOs). However,
few ITSPs are licensed by national authorities and they
generally do not have any universal service obligations.
Many countries ban IP telephony completely, yet IP
calls can be made to almost any telephone in the world.
Many PTOs are establishing their own IP telephony
services, and/or using IP-based networks as alternative
the longer term, as more and more voice traffic becomes IP
data traffic, there will be little to distinguish between IP
telephony and circuit-switched telephony.
However, many telecommunications regulatory schemes
depend upon such a distinction, both physically and as a
matter of policy and law.
As these trends continue, the telecommunications
framework will come under increasing pressure to adapt.