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Skype Banned in China to Protect Local Telcos

People's Daily Online, the official publication of China's Communist party, reports that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has deemed all (Western) VoIP services not provided by China Telecom and China Unicom as illegal to use on the China mainland.

Although the ruling was designed to protect state-owned carriers, a professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications said that the ruling was ridiculous. "VoIP is a popular technology worldwide," professor Kan Kaili said in a Xinhua report.

The now-illegal services include Skype, UUCall, Gmail Talk and many others which now join a long list of banned Western-based Internet services consisting of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail, Foursquare and many more. However Kaili believes that it will be extremely difficult to shut down the use of Skype and others on the mainland.

"Skype is the market leader, but there is also MSN and Gmail Talk," Kaili said in a separate statement. "The children of Chinese government officials, who are studying abroad, use these services to call home, so I do not think anyone is going to cut the lines. Even if they take a strict approach, such as getting local operators to block the broadband services of people who use Skype, people will still find a way around it."

Skype has denied reports of a possible banning in China, reporting that its Asia branch has not received any notification. "Users in China currently can access Skype via TOM Online, our majority JV partner," a spokesperson said. "TOM Online offers local versions of Skype for Windows, MAC as well as mobile platforms such as Symbian and Windows Mobile. More details can be found at skype.tom.com."

As of this report, the ministry has not provided a timetable on when the new ruling will take effect.