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Vonage I know this is long, but if you want a comprehensive view of VoIP regulatory issues

I know this is long, but if you want a comprehensive view of Voip regulatory issues (which is what this thread is about), then it's worth the read.

Voip Regulation: The Time Has Come
From New Telephony (
Posted on: 02/06/2004
By Michael Specht
Law & Policy Editor

All good things must come to an end.

A watershed event in the life of voice over IP occurred this week. That event, the United States Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Voice over IP Forum, held on Dec. 1, 2003, marks the end of a hands-off regulatory era for IP voice. Make no mistake, Voip will be regulated.

Perhaps more important, the fact that the FCC convened such an event heralds the arrival of voice over IP as a serious alternative to traditional voice telephony services. The industry will notice. Consumers will notice. Investors will notice.

And, perhaps less fortunate, more regulators will notice. If the level of attendance (standing room only) at the forum was any indication, many people are noticing and much is at stake.

The forum served a number of purposes. FCC Chairman Michael Powell explained the announced purpose in a Nov. 5 letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Powell explained, "Given the complexity and significance of [VOIP] issues, the FCC has recently announced that it will comprehensively tackle the proper regulatory treatment of Voip and related issues. . . . We will look at how the digital technologies are being used to provide a variety of voice services in the marketplace.

"We will also explore emerging regulatory issues, such as FCC precedent and the classification issues raised in the recent Minnesota District Court ruling on Voip services. Finally, we will begin a conversation on how best to achieve important health, safety and welfare policy objectives, such as E911, universal service and securing our homeland."

Staying Ahead of the Game
Another purpose existed. The FCC needed to re-establish its regulatory leadership in dealing with IP voice issues in the ongoing (and beneficial) tug of war between the FCC and the state regulatory bodies as to who should regulate what. The recent regulatory initiatives by numerous states aimed at voice-over-IP services (as well as the prodding of the industry for the FCC to get involved) forced the FCC to launch the forum quickly.

Without immediate action, the FCC risked being late to the Voip regulation debate and allowing disparate, and likely inconsistent, state regulations to develop. These regulations would impede Voip growth and call into question the FCC's role. The FCC's assumption of a leadership role will serve industry and the development of Voip services well.

The FCC must stay at the forefront and move promptly, relatively speaking. The comments at the forum suggest that it will. And, at least for the moment, the FCC should be applauded for its approach and assumption of the leadership role.

Possible Grounds for Agreement?
The views exchanged during the forum covered a broad spectrum. It was encouraging and somewhat surprising at this earlier stage in the regulatory debate that there seemed to be a fair amount of common ground on the major issues. All parties seemed to recognize the need for regulation of voice over IP.

At the extremes, Carl Wood, commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) seemed to advocate the most regulation, while Jeffrey Citron, CEO of consumer Voip service Vonage seemed to be at the other end of the spectrum advocating a minimalist approach to regulation.

Wood contended that extensive regulation is needed to protect consumer interests, while Citron cited the risks of stifling innovation, losing American jobs and reducing tax revenues as the basis for minimal regulation. In other words, they provided the usual arguments that can apply no matter what the topic of regulation. The answer will fall between these points of views, and was shared by most in attendance.

The Regulation Issues and Possible Answers
The issues can be organized into five categories: regulatory framework, social program support, competition regulation, homeland security and law enforcement support.

Regulatory framework will lay the foundation for the many of the other issues. The primary regulatory framework issues include determining whether voice over IP should be considered interstate or intrastate, and whether it should be classified as a telecommunication service or an information service.

Furthermore, there seems to be a recognition that perhaps these two classifications are no longer useful in the context of voice over IP, a point both Powell and Abernathy seemed to acknowledge. These are critical threshold questions that will dictate much about how IP voice is regulated.

The comments of the commissioners suggest they are leaning toward defining voice over IP as an interstate information service, or creating a new classification, separate from the regulatory baggage associated with the terms "telecommunication service" and "information service," that will allow Voip to be treated without excessive regulation.

Such a determination is absolutely critical to ensure that Voip is not overregulated. From a regulatory perspective, saying that a service is an interstate information service is somewhat at odds with itself. Nonetheless, in order to stave off fragmented state regulation, the FCC will likely move quickly to characterize Voip as interstate, a somewhat easy decision to make.

While subsequently addressing the more challenging issue of whether Voip is a telecommunication service versus information service with a likely conclusion that MOST Voip services will be treated as information services. Creating a new classification will present challenges to the Commission given the statutory basis and precedent surrounding the terms "telecommunication services" and "information services."

Nonetheless, a determination, for example, that Voip is intrastate and a telecommunication service would necessarily impose fragmented state regulation and a plethora of arcane, complex telecommunication regulations on Voip.

Social Support
Another area near and dear to the hearts of most regulators, particularly the Democrats, is ensuring that Voip regulation continues to support social programs, such as emergency services (e.g., E-911), universal service programs and disability access.

E-911 and disability access will be the easy matters, while universal service will be far more difficult. The FCC will likely provide general guidelines requiring that Voip support E-911 and disability access. Consensus seems to exist that IP voice should support universal service goals, but many differences exist on the details and a lot of concern was voiced that the universal service fund mechanisms are broken and should not be imposed upon Voip in their current form. A long and tedious debate is likely to ensue on voice over IP and universal service.

Regulating Competition
Competition regulation encompasses items, such as intercarrier compensation and how the regional Bell operating companies' (RBOCs) Voip services should be regulated, either directly or through subsidiaries. Like universal service most agreed there needs to be intercarrier compensation regulation, and the current approach is broken, particularly as it relates to access charges.

Once again, this will be one of the toughest, longest and most tedious debates surrounding Voip regulation.

The last two areas dealing with homeland security and law enforcement have more technical underpinnings. The FCC will likely provide broad guidance here, but leave the details to industry groups to work out, provided that the industry appears to be supporting homeland security and law enforcement efforts. The challenge related to law enforcement efforts will be to determine how minimal regulation can apply within the existing statutory structures.

A Broad Spectrum of Voip
Forum participants represented diverse interests and expressed a wide range of views on how Voip should be regulated. A morning panel, titled "What is VoIP?", included Kevin Werbach, founder of consulting firm Supernova Group, Charles Giancarlo, senior vice president and general manager, Cisco Systems Inc., Jeff Pulver, president and CEO,, John Hodulik, managing director, communications group, UBS Warburg and John Billock, chief operating officer, Time Warner Cable.

A second panel, titled "VOIP and Public Policy," Included Michael Gallagher, acting assistant secretary, Department of Commerce, the California PUC's Wood, Charles Davidson, commissioner, Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), James Crowe, CEO, Level 3 Communications Inc., Tom Evslin, CEO, ITXC, Vonage's Citron and Gregg Vanderheiden, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Project on Telecommunications Access, University of Wisconsin.

While the first panel was intended to focus more on technology, the emphasis, as one might expect, of both panels was on how to regulate Voip. Interestingly, no RBOCs participated on the panel. Of note, all five FCC commissioners attended the full four hours of the forum, and all were engaged in the exchange, particularly Powell.

Change, but Not Quickly
When does it all happen? Although, the FCC is poised to move quickly, and has stated that it will move quickly to open a notice of proposed rule-making, regulation of IP voice at the federal level still is at least 18 months away.

Powell said, "shortly after the forum" the FCC will initiate a notice of proposed rule-making on voice-over-IP services to gather public comment. He further stated that the FCC will issue a report and order on Voip issues "over the course of the next year." Given these public announcements, the FCC will likely issue a notice of proposed rule- making either in late December or early January.

Furthermore, the FCC will likely act upon existing Voip petitions by AT&T and to classify Voip as interstate within the next month to assert jurisdiction and prevent states from imposing diverse regulations. Given the pace at which the FCC addresses most issues, further federal IP voice regulation in 2004 seems unlikely. Nonetheless, the time for regulation is upon us.

Read The Full Thread:

Today''s outage - a case for regulation

Folks, if Vonage were actually a LEC, this outage would result in HUGE FCC penalties. As-is,
I think you are going to get flamed big time. :wink: No, seriously, the only
regulating them prob isnt the answer now, BUT making sure everyone who does have
They're accountable to their clients. If you aren't happy with their service,
They're accountable to their clients. If you aren't happy with their service,
Folks, if Vonage were actually a LEC, this outage would result in HUGE FCC penalties. As-is,
They're accountable to their clients. If you aren't happy with their service,
Short of having a contract which specifically spells out availability you are
If you pay me to provide a service to you, and I don't come through, are you just going
Of course, comments like this don't help: emphasis mine On another

ToddlerTN posted "I know this is long, but if you want a comprehensive view of VoIP regulatory issues" on 03/06/2005

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