Sun, Sep 11, 2005 - Page 11 News List

China working to shut down Internet telephony services

FREEDOM OF SPEECH China Telecom is talking to hardware and software suppliers about measures to block access to online phone services like Skype

AFP , BEIJING

China Telecom, China's biggest fixed-line telephony provider, is working to shut down computer-to-telephone call services, due to losses caused by the free services, state press said yesterday.

China Telecom is presently experimenting with blocking computer-to-telephone and computer-to-computer services in the major urban centers of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the Beijing Business Today reported.

If the system proves effective, the fixed-line provider hopes to install it nationwide by next year or 2007, it said.

Such measures are aimed at blocking Internet telephony companies, such as Skype, a European company whose software includes the fee-paying "SkypeOut" service in China and free computer-to-computer telephone services elsewhere, the paper said.

"China Telecom has already begun talks with hardware and software suppliers on ways to stop [computer-to-computer telephone services], with the specific measures aimed at blocking Skype servers and preventing users from logging on," the paper said.

According to the paper, China Telecom hopes to also develop a monitoring system that can detect all Internet voice communications and be able to shut them down.

China Telecom customer service agents in Beijing and Shenzhen said that no official orders had been handed down to cut off such services and refused further comment.

Online services such as Skype, which are also being set up by Microsoft and other Internet companies, are popular among businesses and foreign travellers for their cost saving functions.

Despite China Telecom's moves, the government allows state-run telecom companies to offer telephone-to-telephone Internet services, which are offered through pre-paid telephone cards.

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