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Opponents seek truce over Net phones

Industry leaders will meet this week in an effort to forge some kind of compromise on the future of Internet telephony.

As the federal government considers a landmark petition to halt Internet telephone service, industry leaders on both sides of the battle will meet this week in New York in an effort to forge some kind of compromise.

The conference will bring together the various parties that have a stake in the petition's fate and the future of online telephony in general, including technology executives and representatives of more than 100 telephone companies that filed the "special relief" petition with the Federal Communications Commission.

The conference was timed to begin Thursday, the day after the FCC's first deadline for public comment on the petition, which was filed by a telco trade group called America's Carriers Telecommunication Association (ACTA) to stop the sale of software used to make calls over the Internet. It is being organized jointly by the Voice on the Net Coalition, which was formed earlier this year to oppose the petition, and Booz-Allen & Hamilton, a consulting company representing telecommunications and technology firms.

"We want to open the possibility to negotiate foundations on which to move forward," said Jeff Pulver, chairman of the Voice on the Net Coalition. "We need to pursue all avenues and find a way to coexist, to find some common ground."

This week's meeting will be watched closely because the petition has vast consequences for software developers, telephone companies, and civil rights groups.

Pulver hopes that the conference yield the first face-to-face meeting between ACTA representatives and supporters of Internet telephony since the challenge was filed in March. He and others scheduled to attend the conference, however, caution that the sessions carry no guarantee of any resolutions.

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