• United States

Regulators and politicians get into a spin about VoIP

Aug 18, 20044 mins

* VoIP and the question of regulation

We’ve just published the dates of our next VoIP Technology Tour – be sure keep your calendar free in September, as we’ll be at a city near you with this hot event. The dates and locations can be found at the link below.

If you were at any of the VoIP tours this past season, you’ll know that it was a packed-out event where we discussed everything from VoIP vendor selection, testing, deployment, and service regulation. We’re excited to be taking this tour on the road again, this time moderated by Robin Gareiss, chief research officer at Nemertes Research. Robin will be joined by speakers from Qwest, ShorTel and Visual Networks.

You can check out more about the tour here:

Before we kick off the tour, I want to highlight some of the issues surrounding VoIP that will perhaps spark some discussion here and at the event. First, let’s try and tackle the issue of VoIP regulation.

The question of whether VoIP should be considered a telephone service and thus subject to the same taxes and regulations as regular phone services is a hot-button issue among federal and state legislators, and carriers. On the one hand, many believe that regulators should continue with its “light touch” approach to Internet-related legislation, which would make it easier for the industry to produce innovative products and services. On the other, federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Department of Justice, are urging lawmakers to require IP telephony service providers comply with the same law enforcement requirements as regular telephone services.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell wants state regulators to take the same stance as federal in adopting a light-touch approach with VoIP. At an event with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in July, he said regulators would do the nation a “disservice” if they tried to “chop the Internet into 51 pieces and every state is allowed to regulate economically any way it chooses.”

However, some telecom carriers see it differently, particularly carriers in rural states whose budgets are largely supported by access fees that are payable by telecom operators that use part their networks to carry calls. They say that VoIP providers should not be prevented from paying such access fees where necessary.

Another area of contention is wiretapping regulations. The FCC early this month voted to exam the policies needed to ensure that VoIP providers comply with the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which allows enforcement agencies to listen in on telephone conversations. The inclusion of VoIP services in the law has drawn criticism from Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.).  At a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in June, he questioned why the Justice Department wanted CALEA rules to apply to VoIP services, but not most instant message, e-mail or P2P services.

Sununu is sponsoring the VoIP Regulatory Freedom Act of 2004, which would exempt VoIP services from wiretapping regulation. He argues that law enforcement agencies have other methods of tracking ‘Net communications, including court orders requiring Internet companies to release communications to the police.

Another bill called the Advanced Internet Communications Services Act of 2004, was introduced last month to harmonize the needs of all parties. It calls for VoIP services to fall into a new category of telecom services in which providers would have to offer universal service funding, maintain E-911 services and pay carrier access fees, without having to meet any of the other regular telecoms regulations that could hamstring innovation in this sector.

We’ll take a look at some of the other VoIP issues in another newsletter.


Network World Technology Tour: VoIP

Sept. 14-29, at a city near you

For corporate executives, VoIP raises expectations and fears that impact every corner of the enterprise. Data. Budgets. Users. Technology.Convergence. And so in support of IT executives who must meet every challenge, Network World presents a crucial new Technology Tour event.

Claim one of the limited number of complimentary seats at this high-demand event and you’ll learn how to plan, configure, troubleshoot, and leverage your VoIP infrastructure in ways that please CEOs, CTOs, CFOs and everyone who reports to them.

For more information and to register: