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This week in VoIP

America Online announces at this week's Voice on the Net conference that it will launch an Internet phone service within a month.

America Online announced at this week's Voice on the Net conference that it will launch an Internet phone service within a month.

The service will use an adapter to link ordinary handsets to a broadband connection, AOL said at the San Jose, Calif., conference, which is also known as VON 2005.

AOL's service will also be accessible through a PC and will be integrated with AOL's popular instant-messaging and e-mail software.

Internet phone services highlight both opportunities and dilemmas for AOL. The world's largest Internet access provider is working to offset declining subscriber rates for its core dial-up service. AOL wants to return to the good graces of parent Time Warner after the rocky merger of the two companies at the height of the Internet boom in 2000.

Even Google may be interested the Net phone market. A team of Google honchos met with several Net telephone service providers, sources familiar with the talks said, renewing speculation that the search giant may be exploring a move into the fast-growing market.

"They were fairly aggressive about getting our opinions," said one Internet phone executive who facilitated several meetings between Google and Net phone interests at the conference.

Google product manager Eric Sachs was among nine Google employees who attended this week's conference, one source said. Sachs is a longtime friend of Jeff Pulver, founder of free Internet phone provider Free World Dialup and creator of the VON conferences.

Michael Powell, outgoing chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, used the conference to do some legacy building during a "swan song" in which he bid adieu to the Internet telephone industry that was fostered by his hands-off regulatory style.

It was clear that Powell wants his legacy to include voice over Internet Protocol, software that lets an Internet connection serve as a telephone line. During his tenure, Powell consistently advocated a free-market approach to VoIP specifically and to broadband in general, which often put him at odds with commissioners from both major political parties.