• United States
Executive Editor

VoIP should be in category all its own

Jul 08, 20042 mins

* U.S. reps file a bill that proposes VoIP should get a category all its own

New legislation tries to address the question of whether VoIP is properly considered a voice service in the traditional sense of the term.

The answer, according to a bill filed by U.S. Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Richard Boucher (D-Va.) is no. VoIP should get a category all its own that is backed up by its own set of rules spelled out in the proposed law.

The bottom line is that the FCC would have final say in how VoIP is regulated – not individual states, which is good for encouraging adoption of the technology and prompting new services. It is difficult and expensive for providers to set up consistent sets of services nationwide if they have to operate under rules that vary state to state.

The proposed law would create a new regulatory category – advanced Internet communications services (AICS) that would cover any type of IP traffic. This would be distinct from the existing information services and telecommunications services categories.

Providers of AICS would have to subsidize universal access to such services and any IP voice services would have to support emergency 911 dialing, just as traditional phone carriers must. The law would also require AICS providers of voice services to pay traditional carriers for terminating calls.

This proposal would also make the FCC regulate all AICS services the same regardless of the type of carrier offering the service. So if AT&T were to offer VoIP and Verizon were to offer it and Time Warner Cable were to offer it, the regulations are the same even though two of them are traditional phone companies and one is a cable TV provider.

In the absence of a court ruling to turn this type of regulation over to the FCC, this may be a good way to ensure that regulation doesn’t become a barrier to VoIP services.