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Russian Business Sees Skype as National Security Threat

Russian Business Sees Skype as National Security Threat

Russia’s most powerful business lobby, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, is taking the stance that VoIP services like Skype and ICQ pose a threat to both Russian businesses and Russian national security—because they undercut phone services offered by existing Russian businesses, and because they’re owned and operated by foreign companies.

The group works as a lobby representing Russian business interests; it includes over 1,000 members including private and state-run businesses. The lobby has now formed a working group to draft legislation aimed at protecting Russian business interests and providing government control and regulation of VoIP firms operating in Russia. Draft legislation is expected from the committee by September.

The group forecasts about 40 percent of voice calls in Russia will be placed through VoIP services by 2012.

The group is concerned not with the potential for free or inexpensive VoIP services to undercut services offered by Russia’s existing telecom operators: consumers turning to VoIP services en masse will lead to revenue shortfalls which, the lobby argues, means Russian telecom operators won’t be able to invest in facilities and network infrastructure. The group is also concerned about most VoIP firms operating in Russia being owned by foreign business interests, creating a potentially risky reliance. Delegates to the meeting also reportedly pointed out that it’s difficult to impossible for Russian law enforcement to access VoIP communications hosted by foreign firms.

Some Russian telecom operators seem interested in offering their own VoIP services within Russia and competing with the likes of Skype and ICQ.

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