With the advent of VoIP, less expensive - free for open source versions - IP PBXs have emerged, and the debate is renewed. IP PBXs cost less than their predecessors and are designed to be simple enough that relatively non-technical people who run small businesses can operate them.
VoIP also means a morphing of Centrex services into managed IP PBX services, with actual IP PBXs being installed on site with management interfaces that put customers in control of features and configuration if they want it.
But having carriers manage devices on customer networks rather than managing devices within their network cloud opens up a separate set of problems. "It's one thing to be an expert on the cloud side, and quite another to look into a customer's Ethernet infrastructure, see which component is causing a problem and fix it remotely," says Ed Basart, the CTO of IP PBX vendor ShoreTel in a Network World debate on the topic
A counter argument is that IP PBX services make the cost of phone service more predictable. "Hosted solutions' flat monthly fees eliminate the guesswork," says Dan Hoffman, president and CEO of provider M5 Networks.
With the control they give and the intimate linking of voice with other applications they can provide, owning IP PBXs still wins the argument, but not once and for all. Centrex and its offspring will continue the debate.
Net neutrality v.s. tiered servicesIn the mid-1990s, the comic book industry's two titans combined forces to release "Marvel Comics vs. DC," a short series that pitted such classic DC heroes as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman against Marvel icons such as Spider Man, the Hulk and Wolverine.
The debate over network neutrality is very similar to this infamous clash of comic book stars. Why, you ask? Because seemingly every major power in telecommunications, politics and IT - from Congress to the Department of Justice to Verizon to AT&T to Google - has staked out a position and is waging a fierce battle for consumers' hearts and minds.
Network neutrality - often commonly referred to as 'Net neutrality- is the principle that ISPs should not be allowed to block or degrade Internet traffic from their competitors in order to speed up their own. Several consumers' rights groups, as well as large Internet companies such as Google and eBay, have led the charge to get Congress to pass laws restricting ISPs from blocking or slowing Internet traffic, so far with little success. The major telcos, meanwhile, have uniformly opposed net neutrality by arguing that such government intervention would take away ISPs' incentives to upgrade their networks, thus stalling the widespread deployment of broadband Internet. In order to keep maintaining and improving network performance, say net neutrality opponents, ISPs need to have the power to use tiered networks to discriminate in how quickly they deliver Internet traffic.
Yet despite all the heat this fight has raised, neither side looks as though it's backing down anytime soon. Although the Senate proposed new net neutrality legislation in January, there have been no significant advances on that front since then. Previous Congressional efforts at passing net neutrality legislation have proven so far unsuccessful. But net neutrality will almost certainly continue to make headlines, whether they come from forceful denunciations written by the Justice Department or from revelations that Comcast blocks some peer-to-peer traffic on its services.
VoIP vs. TDM voiceTDM isn't dead yet as the backbone of corporate phone networks, but it is definitely in its last throes.
TDM, phone technology based on circuits switched by venerable PBXs, provided valuable services for a long time. Everybody got their own extension, a fancy corporate phone, voice mail and sometimes extra features such as conferencing, multiple call appearances and caller ID.
It was reliably maintained by well-trained telecom staffers who knew their switches like the backs of their hands.