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Vonage In The News
Vonage Holdings Corp. Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2013 Results

Carolyn Katz Elected to Board of Directors of Vonage Holdings Corp.

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Vonage, a VT2142 and a RTP300, My Experiences - A Detailed Review
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Salt Lake City: impressions after several months




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U.S. FCC Delves Into New Rules For Web-Based Calls


Vonage In Print News

U.S. FCC Delves Into New Rules For Web-Based Calls

December 1, 2003

By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Top U.S. communications regulators said on Monday that Internet-based telephone service probably should face lighter regulation than traditional land line service -- but were less certain what rules should apply.

"Let no regulatory prescription be ordered without first showing it's needed," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell told a day-long Washington forum on regulating the rising number of Internet-based phone services.

Telephone carriers, like upstarts such as Vonage as well as market leader Verizon Communications, are rapidly trying to shift calls to high-speed Internet lines, using so-called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology for a more efficient and cheaper way to route calls.

In addition, technology companies and cable operators like Time Warner Inc.'s cable operations have begun deploying Voip service. Time Warner hopes to offer it to all of its 11 million cable subscribers by the end of 2004.

The FCC has largely taken a hands-off approach to the Internet but now it is converging with heavily regulated telephone service.

"We don't come early to this issue and it is increasingly apparent that commission action is needed soon," said FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a sentiment echoed by others at the agency. "It's no slam dunk that the old rules even apply."

Powell said he had hoped to begin later this month formal proceedings to set an appropriate regulatory framework for the service, but those will not likely kick off until January at the earliest.

New policy could take a year or longer to formulate and FCC policies are often challenged in the courts, which can prolong implementation.

NEW RULES FOR NEW SERVICES?

Telephone service is heavily regulated in the United States since it is seen as critical for public safety. But some companies have tried to limit some rules from being applied to new technologies and services.

To promote competition, the four local Bell telephone companies, Verizon, BellSouth Corp., SBC Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. must share their networks with rivals and offer reasonable terms and rates.

All telephone companies must pay each other fees for connecting calls and long-distance calls are assessed a charge for a fund to subsidize service. Additionally they have public safety obligations, such as providing 911 emergency service and ensuring law enforcement agencies can conduct surveillance.

Voip could circumvent all of that.

"We do need to discuss the consequences of the proliferation of Voip services on our important statutory obligations," such as universal service and 911 capabilities, among other issues, said Copps.

Some companies offering Internet-based service urged the agency to go light when applying regulations.

"What you shouldn't do is just dump legacy regulation on what is a fundamentally different technology," said Jeff Pulver, who runs Free World Dialup. "IP communications has no bottlenecks."

Time Warner Cable does contribute to the universal service fund which subsidizes service to rural and high-cost areas.

"Time Warner Cable is committed to supporting important public policies associated with its delivery of IP voice services," said John Billock, the company's chief operating officer.

One analyst said that the uncertainty surrounding what regulations may be adopted for Voip services was hurting stocks of some smaller companies offering the service, like Z-Tel Technologies Inc. and 8X8 Inc., down 18 percent and 22 percent respectively in afternoon trading on Nasdaq on Monday.

This story also appeared in:
  • America's Network, 12/2/03



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