Feeds

Hands off VoIP, Feds tell states

FCC blasted for whistling away worries

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Boost IT visibility and business value

Individual states don't have the power to regulate Voice over IP telephony, the US federal communications regulator decided today. Minnesota's public utilities commission had asked Vonage, a VoIP provider, to abide by the same requirements as a regular telephone company. But the FCC today decided state requirements were "inconsistent with the FCC's "deregulatory policies".

The FCC had to decide whether VoIP was a phone service, which states can regulate, or a computer service, which only it can regulate. It plumped for the latter in a unanimous decision. However, VoIP supporter Commissioner Copps, in a typically no-nonsense opinion, blasted his fellow commissioners for approaching VoIP regulation in a piecemeal fashion, and ducking the important questions of consumer protection and public safety. He also warned against reading too much into what he characterized as a "narrow jurisdictional finding." The hard work remains ahead, he warned.

The FCC said that states shouldn't use regulation to prevent new entrants entering the telephony market. VoIP providers, however, still need to meet the social obligations of a traditional phone provider: guaranteeing quick and reliable access to emergency services.

Vonage hailed the unanimous decision: three commissioners voting for the proposal and two concurring.

"Today’s decision finds that VoIP services like Vonage’s DigitalVoice have an undeniably interstate character," wrote Copps. "That’s fine as far as it goes—but it doesn’t go very far. Proclaiming the service 'interstate' does not mean that everything magically falls into place, the curtains are raised, the technology is liberated, and all questions are answered. There are, in fact, difficult and urgent questions flowing from our jurisdictional conclusion and they are no closer to an answer after we act today than they were before we walked in here.

"So rather than sailing boldly into a revolutionary new Voice Over communications era, we are, I think, still lying at anchor," he said. The FCC must develop coherent frameworks for public safety, protecting consumers from Savings and Loan-type scamsters, and working out fair compensation to the incumbents whose networks the VoIP providers access for free, rather than just bumbling along.

"The Commission moves bit-by-bit through individual company petitions, in effect checking off business plans as they walk through the door. This is not the way we should be proceeding," wrote Copps.

Copps raises important questions about what the role of a regulator should be, and admits that he's baffled about where the FCC is going with VoIP. He's clearly concerned that the nods and winks that FCC chief Michael Powell gives to the deregulation lobby don't add up to a coherent policy. And he's right. ®

Related stories

When Dinosaur telcos ruled the Earth
Vonage: recipe for success?
BT in VoIP giveaway
Cellular Nation looks perky again
UK rings up new 'real phone' VoIP service

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
Don't call it throttling: Ericsson 'priority' tech gives users their own slice of spectrum
Actually it's a nifty trick - at least you'll pay for what you get
Three floats Jolla in Hong Kong: Says Sailfish is '3rd option'
Network throws hat into ring with Linux-powered handsets
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
PwC says US biz lagging in Internet of Things
Grass is greener in Asia, say the sensors
Ofcom sees RISE OF THE MACHINE-to-machine cell comms
Study spots 9% growth in IoT m2m mobile data connections
O2 vs Vodafone: Mobe firms grab for GCHQ, gov.uk security badge
No, the spooks love US best, say rival firms
Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM
Networks' main issue: they don't know how it works, says expert
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.