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An Internet telephony trade group has urged US authorities not to tie up the fledgling VoIP industry in red tape.

The Voice on the Net (VON) coalition - which includes AT&T, Intel, MCI, Microsoft and Skype among others - has called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to apply traditional telephone regulations to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) warning that if it did, consumers would lose out.

In a latest round of lobbying, VON urged the FCC to classify VoIP and other IP-enabled services as "unregulated information services" subject exclusively to federal jurisdiction. The FCC is currently looking at whether VoIP and other Internet enabled communications services should continue to be unregulated Internet services.

VON believes policymakers should hold back from applying traditional telecom regulation that could stifle VoIP.

Said Peter Pitsch, Communications Policy Director for Intel Corporation: "We are informing the FCC that with the right public policies, VoIP can help deliver new innovations and more affordable ways to communicate. VoIP also can be a force for increased competition, a platform for innovation, a driver of broadband deployment, and an enabler of economic growth."

However, in its submission to the FCC this week, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said it wanted safeguards put in place to protect consumers.

It believes VoIP is a telecoms service and therefore subject to the same regulations that govern other telecoms services providers - including universal service support, emergency and public safety access, consumer protections and disability access.

It accepts that VoIP will become increasingly more important but wants to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect consumers.

"The current network of universal, affordable, high-quality telephone service - which reaches nearly every household and business in the United States - ensured that all Americans would have access to service through policies and regulation that served the public interest," said the CWA.

"Now, as we move into the next generation of communications, it is more important than ever to maintain this commitment to universal service, if the full benefits of Internet-enabled services are to be available to all." ®

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