052. VoIP and Breaking Boundaries with Jeff Pulver

*Special thank yous to StationHead radio in Brooklyn, New York for hosting Jeff Pulver and me for this very deep conversation.*

Although we didn’t get into blockchain technology or crypto, Jeff Pulver and I did talk a lot about technology and the early days of the internet. And I think that if you want to know where you’re going, it’s important to know where you’ve been. Jeff creates an amazing picture of what life was like in those early days… when he was experimenting with Voice over the internet.

His experimentation and his passion and ultimately his action led to what the FCC called the Pulver order, which kept Voice over IP out of the domain of the telecom companies and in the hands of the public. It’s why we can connect with people around the globe using FaceTime or What’s App or any calling service over the internet for free.

Jeff says that the Killer App has been Voice. And based on our conversation it makes sense. Transcribing the written word just isn’t the same. It can’t capture emotion or all of the information that we process in a conversation through our voices in the same way. It just doesn’t do it justice. 

If voice has been the Killer App up until now, and we’re trying to get more and more authenticity or accuracy in transmission as we go forward, then maybe Video will be the Killer App in the next few years.

Jeff takes me back to a time when he was ahead of the curve with audio broadcasting on the internet and one of the first broadcasts he did was the Macy’s Day Parade in November 1995 with WCBS News Radio 880. Jeff was really passionate and active in the Amateur Radio (or Ham Radio) community and was in touch with people from all over the world.

He started out with experimenting with voice and the internet, but combining voice and radio. He used a phone patch to patch the radio to the telephone. Back in these days, calling someone on the phone long distance was really expensive. You’d be charged by the minute and it’s almost like long distance calling on a cell phone now, without a plan, or when you’re roaming with no plan.

And this wasn’t illegal as along as he was doing it for non-commercial purposes. Then in September of 1995 he decided to hook up some computer equipment to his phone and radio connection and had a friend in Jakarta, Indonesia who was helping him through some technical questions around the hook up. It worked. 

“Someone in Indonesia found me and did some tinkering on his own and figured out that if I use a certain type of hardwareplugged into a computer, I can get dial tone. So I can call my ISP to get internet access. And I also can get out and make a phone call. So it took about a month. But I launched something called Free World Dial Up. And I ended up getting about 500 people from all over the world to join us. And we created the first phone network that ran over the internet. And everything was free. “

Years later, Jeff had a premonition and felt that he needed to take action to save the future of broadband and VoIP. 

“I filed my own petition at the FCC asking for regulatory clarity that voice communication and thoughts on the public Internet for not to be regular this telecom. And the reason why friends of yours and mine today can open up an app, whether it’s on WhatsApp, whether it’s Messenger, whether it’s FaceTime, or any other application on their phones or laptops, and can click on someone’s face and they can speak to that person anywhere in the world for any duration in time is because on February 12th, 2004 the Federal Communications Commission issued something called the Pulver Order.”

And that’s why we’re all able to communicate over the internet like we can now with our voice for free.

Jeff’s is experimenting now with some incredible photography. He photographs night skies that are lit up full of stars. And we talk about the awe that inspires him and about consciousness and vibration. 

We go deep in this conversation, but we talk about things that are meaningful. It’s something a little different and a lot more profound.