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As more companies and individuals explore the possibility of using voice-over-IP to reduce communications costs, 8×8 is ready to provide the solution.

As more companies and individuals explore the possibility of using voice-over-IP (VoIP) to reduce communications costs, Santa Clara-based 8×8, Inc. is ready for the revolution. CEO Bryan Martin talks about unlimited calls, technology, and working with the Feds.

The company was founded as a fabless semiconductor company. How did it get started with VoIP?

In December 2002, we launched our first VoIP and video communications service, called Packet8. We supply telephone service over your broadband Internet connection, and you can make unlimited phone calls to any telephone number in the United States and Canada, and unlimited phone calls to any Packet8 number anywhere in the world. It also includes voice mail, caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, three-way calling, and a host of other features.

Why do you think there’s a need for your services?

These new VoIP services are in demand because of the prices they offer. You cannot get a regular telephone line or any other VoIP offering with features comparable to Packet8 and its $19.95 per month fee.

Customers today are definitely attracted to the price advantage we offer with our service-we can save them a ton of money over a traditional telephone line from one of the regional Bell companies, and we also offer features that have never been offered before, such as the ability to choose a phone number from any area code on our network and online, real-time billing.

How does the company distinguish itself in such a competitive marketplace?

We are the only service provider that has developed the entire spectrum of technologies used in our end-to-end service. We build the chips in our endpoints, the firmware in our endpoints, and all of the software components of the Packet8 network–the soft switches, voicemail system, billing software, and customer support infrastructure.

We have also begun selling a broadband videophone, using our own proprietary software that works the same way as our voice service-you plug the videophone into an Internet connection anywhere in the world, and immediately have access to dialtone services.

What do you think of the FCC’s overtures toward regulating VoIP?

We are fortunate to have a very progressive group of commissions in the current FCC who have publicly stated that they are in favor of little or no regulation on this emerging industry.

The real uncertainty that remains surrounding VoIP regulation is whether state public utility commissions-which jumped in and tried to enforce old-style circuit-switched telecom laws on Internet calling last year-continue to try to enforce some form of regulation before the FCC has had a chance to update its federal policies on VoIP.

Because services like Packet8 operate over the Internet, it becomes impossible to impose a state-level intrastate view of the world on these VoIP services-it is impossible to separate the Internet into interstate and intrastate components.

Thus, we have been lobbying the FCC to provide policy guidance from the federal level to insure a cohesive set of state-level policies in regards to these new types of services.

Do you have anything in the works for the future?

We are working on some additional offerings for the business space that will really start to bring the advantages of VoIP into the business world-distributed extensions and conference bridges with unlimited dialing plans and worldwide phone numbers.

We are also exploring ways to bring the price of these videophones down so that they are much more affordable to home consumers.

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