Much like they clamped down on Google because it refused to censor its search results to meet government restrictions, Chinese regulators are now muscling out Skype and other Internet phone services that aren't sponsored or sanctioned by the government.
According to The Wall Street Journal, voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) services are illegal unless they are provided by China Telecom or China Unicom. However, details as to how the rule will be implemented remain unclear, as it was just released in December.
As a Skype spokesperson told the WSJ, the service is not currently banned in China. It is still available via Beijing-based TOM Online, with which Skype recently struck a partnership deal. At the time, Skype CEO and co-founder Niklas Zennstrom said:
By uniting Skype's market-leading global Internet communications platform with TOM Online's wireless leadership and understanding of the needs of Chinese market we believe we have a powerful mix of skills in place to bring the Skype experience to millions of Internet users.
Hopefully, the new prohibition won't put the kibosh on that partnership, but a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in the U.S. says the "development" is consistent with prior decisions by the Chinese government.