FCC to regulate IP services early next year

Look to the Federal Communications Commission to set regulations on IP services sometime early next year, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told a crowd of hundreds at Supercomm 2005.   "The FCC needs to decide what rules apply to IP services and needs to decide pretty quickly," Martin said.

Look to the Federal Communications Commission to set regulations on IP services sometime early next year, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told a crowd of hundreds at Supercomm 2005

"The FCC needs to decide what rules apply to IP services and needs to decide pretty quickly," Martin said.

That is because creating a level playing field for service providers is a key goal for his tenure. The task is complicated by the fact that telephony service providers closely regulated by the FCC, such as phone companies, must compete with others such as ISPs and cable TV companies that have not offered voice services before and do not fall under traditional FCC jurisdiction on that score.

At the same time, Martin says he wants to encourage competition between non-traditional phone companies and the established carriers. "We need to address the regulatory differences service providers face because these can create unintentional barriers to getting into each others business," Martin says.

Key to this is an expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether voice over cable networks should be regulated and whether cable operators should be forced to open their networks to other providers that want to provide voice services using the cable network to access customers.

He says he is also sympathetic to providers such as the big local phone companies that are trying to offer video services but have to win franchises from local governments first. Local governments often want services to be available to everyone before granting franchises, which makes it tougher for competitors that would have to run fiber close to every home to support the service.

He says he will keep the goal of encouraging entrepreneurs to develop new technologies and services in mind as the commission decides on regulating VoIP services.

Martin sees new radio frequency spectrum for offering broadband data services wirelessly as one of the most important tasks of the FCC in the short-term. He expects the commission to auction newly freed-up bands that were used for public safety broadcasts sometime early next year.

Martin says he supports the Bush administration’s goal of universal broadband access by 2007 because it has impact on education, entertainment, work and the economy as a whole. "It can mean a productivity growth for a country of people who are all connected," Martin says.

He says the coolest technology he saw at Supercomm 2005 was Wi-Fi phones that can roam to cellular networks without dropping calls.

This story, "FCC to regulate IP services early next year" was originally published by The Edge.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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