Bad News for Telecom Pirates

When most people think of crime, the picture that comes to mind is commonly of a violent or dark nature. The visualization created of the corresponding criminal is that of a twisted individual who recklessly harms others whether physically, with illegal substances or in some other maniacal way. To be labeled a criminal means association with a lifestyle of immoral behavior.

There are many critics of the penal system, at least here the United States, for many reasons such as incidents when criminal convictions seem trivial. As the country with the highest percentage of incarcerated population, the system has been subject to scrutiny from many who believe that the system is designed to make money rather than rehabilitate criminals.

Not all those who are sentenced to serve time in a correctional institution fit the stereotypical description of what most picture when the word prisoner is mentioned. Some violated a regulation or committed a crime of a white collar nature yet are still required to serve a mandatory prison sentence. Within this group of people, the kinds of criminal demeanor further varies.

Most people behind bars knowingly committed crimes which adversely affected others in some way. However, some of these people simply worked their way into a losing situation. Sometimes a person behind bars had the best of intentions.

VoIP in the middle-east

Many countries in the Middle Eastern region of the world have certain policies against VoIP. Mostly, these policies outlaw the service essentially because it cuts into the profits of the government owned telecom industries. These stories have made news many times over the years. WhichVoIP too has covered some of these stories, especially those related to changes in the telecom regulation.

People have been compromising transmissions for a long time, far before VoIP became a communication technology. In the hundred plus years of radio usage, pirate broadcasts have commandeered airwaves for the sake of political and entertainment purposes. It’s much the same for VoIP pirates. These centers create connections that utilize bandwidth illegally by either surpassing limitations set by service providers or by circumventing the process entirely.

Getting caught…

Many countries in Asia have a very restricted market for telecommunications. Nepal, much like other nearby countries, has certain procedures and limitations for service. The operator Nepal Telecom is a government owned provider for fixed line connections as well as mobile service. This company partners with other companies in nearby countries for the sake of the area infrastructure but they are the only provider for the country.

Of course, VoIP applications can be used in place of traditionally calling methods. Regulations forbids these applications because this both reduces the income received from phone networks as well as inflates data networks. The people have no other option but to use Nepal Telecom. So the people turn to other solutions for their communications needs.

Should you get caught illegally communicating, you could be fined. If you are found assisting in an endeavor that is illegally using bandwidth to host a VoIP calling center, the consequences are greater. This is exactly what a father and son discovered in Nepal.

Ananda Raj Joshi and his son Saughat Raj Joshi were found operating an illegal VoIP center in two Nepal locations. For about a year, the duo hosted two calling centers, one Reliable Colony, Saibu and another in Lagankhel, Lalipur. Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) arrested the two and also confiscated several business class networking devices as well as other odds and ends used to create the infrastructure.

It seems as though there is a sting in place at the moment. The Raj Joshi family are two of over a hundred that have been apprehended for the same crime. The CIB is claiming some 9 billion rupees in damages because of the VoIP pirates.

Trouble makers elsewhere

Other countries are having similar problems. People do not want to want to pay the high prices demanded by the only provider. In the US and other countries with various options for service providers, one can just switch. People in countries like Nepal don’t have such an option so they resort to illegal activity.

News recently surfaced about a very similar scenario in Pakistan. The authorities have been engaged in a lengthy task of monitoring call exchange centers and information gateways to observe such events and call origination and termination as well as when and where bandwidth spikes. In doing so, law enforcement has been able to stop several illegal centers around the country.

At this point in time, some 35 centers have been shut down. Fortunately for the offenders, not everyone is arrested for their involvement in these pirate calling centers. One person has been arrested while the rest of the people involved are shooed away after their equipment is taken.

What to do with the “thieves”

Many of these countries recognize that their market is too controlled. Over regulation has attributed to the rise and great success of the telecom monopolies in these countries. Creating a new system would be an immense undertaking not to mention, countries in South Asia and the Middle East are not ready to change.

Instead, the punishment is fairly relaxed. Even the most notorious VoIP bandit in Nepal only received 3 years when he was arrested last year (plus a really nasty fine.) Maybe there is another lesson to be learned from these stings.

It would probably be wise to recognize that this market has a lot of appeal. The telecom companies could capitalize on VoIP if they were to make it a feature at an affordable price. After all, would you blame a starving man for stealing a sandwich you waived in his face? Hopefully not!

About the author  ⁄ Dan

A veteran of the dotcom boom, Dan has worked with leading tech companies and startups, and is the author of several books and articles. Dan has been contributing to for several years.

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