The telecommunications industry stands divided on whether the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) should regulate Voice over Internet Protocol service (VoIP services) in the same way that they have regulated the public switched telephone network for some time now.
Last November, two petitions were filed. One petition by AT&T, and the other by the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA). NTCA is a group that represents rural providers. The AT&T petition calls on the FCC to establish test zones where old regulations should no longer apply. And requests that the FCC should declare the new VoIP networks “subject to minimal regulation only at the federal level.” AT&T has also stated that any regulation of interconnection between two providers of VoIP services would be “needless and harmful”. It also states that the FCC lacks authority under Title II of the Communications Act to regulate interconnection between two providers of IP-based “information services”. So are retail VoIP service providers and internet service providers now classified.
On the other end of the spectrum, the NTCA petition requests that the FCC make a rule. This rule is to “examine means of promoting and sustaining the ongoing evolution of the public switched telephone network… to an IP-based infrastructure through targeted regulatory relief and the establishment of tailored near-term economic incentives”. Such incentives include allowing phone companies to recover the costs of carrying IP traffic on their networks. Those incentives also include providing “sufficient and predictable” universal service support for providing broadband internet service to rural America. AT&T’s claims that the FCC did not have authority to regulate interconnection. An advocate for more regulations pointed out that incumbent local exchange carriers have a duty to negotiate interconnection agreements in “good faith”. That is regardless of whether the networks interconnecting are copper-based or IP-based.
To read the full story from Bloomberg’s article “Views Vary on FCC Role As Regulator in All-IP World”, go here.