Veterans of the high-definition TV wars of the 1980s, the authors, social scientists as well as technologists, came to see themselves as "chroniclers and students of an intriguing and serious techno-economic conflict." Why, they asked, did so few understand the rules of the game?
Internet telephony is the integration and convergence of voice and data networks, services, and applications. The rapidly developing technology can convert analog voice input to digital data, send it over available networked channels, and then convert it back to voice output. Traditional circuit-switching networks such as telephone lines can be used together with packet-switching networks such as the Internet, thereby merging communication modes such as email, voice mail, fax, pager, real-time human speech, and multimedia videoconferencing into a single integrated system.
More than fifty years ago, Joseph Schumpeter stated that processes intrinsic to a capitalist society produce a "creative destruction," whereby innovations destroy obsolete technologies, only to be assaulted in turn by newer and more efficient rivals. This book asks whether the current chaotic state of the telecommunications and related Internet industries is evidence of creative destruction, or simply a result of firms, governments, and others wasting valuable resources with limited benefits to society as a whole.