Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Pulver Order

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Imagine a world where you have to pay for your voice-connected internet conversations and worse yet, where you would pay for this voice on the internet connection by the number of minutes you speak and the physical distance between you and the other person.

Now try to get your budget around the type of expense you would have had with a team conference call or voice and video call.

“More than 70% of the people reading this article in the Manchester Ink link are doing so on a handheld device”

More than 70% of the people reading this article in the Manchester Ink link are doing so on a handheld device that is nothing like the original cell phone. Stop for a second and consider what you could not be doing if the tool in your hand was just a wireless telephone.

Finally, imagine living and working through the COVID-19 pandemic without all your favorite at-home human-connection tools from the likes of Microsoft, Google, Zoom, Android and Apple. That dystopian world might have been ours if it weren’t for a business called Free World Dialup and its visionary leader, Jeff Pulver.


Just 20 years ago, Pulver faced lawsuits and jail time for his role in holding telephone companies at bay when they wanted to stop voice over internet (VoIP) from being a thing. Voice was their bailiwick and hard wire connections were tightly regulated. This dial-up connection to the internet was a contentious point of disagreement. It took a bold stance by the Federal Communications Commission to allow Pulver’s fledgling Free World Dialup the breathing space to blaze a path that we all take for granted today.

Pulver was the co-founder of Vonage, a now publicly-held cloud communications provider acquired by Ericsson in November 2021. He still guides the VON Coalition for voice and video over the net, which advocates to keep internet communications free from government over-regulation.


Back on Feb 12, 2004, the FCC under Chairman Michael Powell delivered this bold groundbreaking decision. They determined that Free World Dialup was neither telecommunications nor a telecommunications service. The memorandum that resulted became known as the Pulver Order.

Today, February 12, 2024, is the 20th anniversary of the Pulver Order. The Pulver Order is important because it allowed for the widespread adoption of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). It reduced regulatory barriers to VoIP.

Not only did Pulver change the way the world communicates, he paved the way for creating communities that do not rely on geography to function.


To celebrate this event’s 20th anniversary, my friend Jeff Pulver, his attorney Glenn Richards, former FCC Chair Michael Powell, and others are gathering at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. They will take a look back at “the journey of the Pulver Order and its impact on the Telecom Industry over the past two decades.” They will then, more importantly, take a look ahead “Exploring future trends and Next-Gen Technology and evolving regulatory policies.”

Jeff Pulver is a unique thinker and futurist who continues to see uses for Internet tools that their creators never dreamed possible.  Learn more about him and his work and programs here.

Back in December, Jeff and I had dinner in Nashua, New Hampshire, where we explored the post-pandemic world of communities, communications and the future. Not only did Pulver change the way the world communicates, he paved the way for creating communities that do not rely on geography to function.  He has hosted a weekly Zoom call among friends since the start of the pandemic.

Photo of Jeff Pulver namesake of the Pulver Order sharing an evening with Keith Spiro Communicast
Sharing sensibilities and meals for more than 15 years. Jeff Pulver, futurist, left, and Keith Spiro Communicast.


Breakfast in Manchester, NH

We are in discussion now to host a Breakfast with Jeff Pulver in Manchester sometime in the next few months. Please contact me if you would be interested in sponsoring or attending.

South by Southwest (SXSW) March 13, 2024

SXSW showcases the convergence of tech, film, music, education and culture.

“How The Pulver Order Changed The Way The World Communicates” will take place at the Hilton Austin Downtown at 4 p.m.  Discover the myriad ways the Pulver Order reshaped the very fabric of how people connect.


Jeff published his comprehensive summary of the VoIP Revolution just four days ago on a membership-required, social media platform. We re-post it here, in its entirety, in the spirit of free and open access to information. InkLink News and Culture is not gated by a paywall, nor is membership required. I respect both Jeff Pulver’s and Carol Robidoux’s strong focus on nurturing community and communications that allow everyone the opportunity of access.

Keith Spiro Communicast. Good people doing great things
The stories of Good people doing Great Things. Contact: keith@keithspiromedia.com

A Comprehensive Look at the VoIP Revolution

by Jeff Pulver

In 2004, the FCC’s landmark decision, The Pulver Order, marked a pivotal moment in the history and evolution of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. More than a personal triumph, it reshaped the landscape of digital communication, cloud technology, and the VoIP hardware industry, leading me to question what a world without The Pulver Order would have looked like.

Unleashing VoIP’s Potential

The Pulver Order exempted VoIP services from traditional telecom regulations, marking a new era’s birth. It facilitated rapid growth across platforms like Skype, Google Meet, Vonage, 8×8, Phone.com, Zoom, and Dialpad, showcasing the untapped potential of VoIP technology.

Ripple Effects Across Major Platforms

This ruling was instrumental in expanding major platforms such as Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, and WebEx, essential for business communication, and in Dialpad’s innovative integration of communication forms, reshaping modern workplaces.

The Unsung Heroes: Data Centers and Cloud Ecosystems

The impact of The Pulver Order on data centers and cloud ecosystems, though often overlooked, was significant. It spurred growth in hyper-connected data centers, crucial for supporting a wide range of digital services.

UCaaS and CPaaS: Redefining Business Communication

The development of CPaaS, “Communications Platform as a Service” and UCaaS, “Unified Communications as a Service” was a major outcome of The Pulver Order, revolutionizing business communication infrastructures with scalability and flexibility.

A New Landscape for VoIP Hardware Vendors

The Pulver Order also impacted VoIP hardware vendors, opening new markets and opportunities for innovation in hardware design and functionality. This led to a surge in competition and innovation, benefiting consumers and businesses with more advanced hardware options.

Global Connectivity and Innovation

The regulatory freedom provided by The Pulver Order was crucial for the growth and integration of VoIP technologies, impacting everything from software platforms to hardware development.

Reflecting on a Personal Journey with VoIP

My journey with VoIP highlights the importance of visionary technology policy. The Pulver Order was a crucial step in the evolution of digital communication, influencing software to hardware in the VoIP realm.

Envisioning the Future of Digital Communication

As we continue to rely on these technologies for global connectivity and business operations, the role of key regulatory decisions like The Pulver Order in fostering an environment for digital communication to evolve and innovate is vital.

jeff pulver ai image
Jeff Pulver image from his website


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About this Author

Keith Spiro

Advisor & ContributorInk Link News, Arts & Culture

Business Strategist, Community Builder with a keen interest in working with high-impact startups and other organizations that can make a difference in community and health.