The “No Voice” Internet

The New York Times has a story today about American Airlines’ new in-flight internet service and the fact that they are blocking VOIP services like Skype.

I was an early investor in VOIP in the late 90s and am a big fan of services like Skype that allow people to make calls over their internet connections. We use a VOIP service in our home and have bypassed the traditional phone network for the most part.

But there are certain places where I don’t think phone calls make a lot of sense. I certainly would not want someone sitting next to me on a cross country flight to be making business calls the whole way. I also would not want to ride in a NYC subway car filled with people talking on their phones. And though I don’t commute via train, I am sure that those that do don’t want people talking on phones on their morning and evening commute.

But one of the great things about the internet is that it’s gotten incredibly easy to communicate without using your voice. Our family talks constantly via blackberry’s messenger service but we rarely talk to each other on our mobile phones during the day. People travelling via air, train, or subway can use tools like IM, twitter, and web to sms to "talk" while in transit. And that’s a great thing.

I very much want to have broadband internet on all flights, all subways, all forms of mass transit. But I don’t want voice on them. I want the "no voice" internet in these places.