Wednesday, July 16, 2008

FCC VoIP Ruling Good -- But Why Not Apply Them to Everyone?

In a post last week, Jeff Pulver rallies the troops around the FCC's policy of exclusive federal jurisdiction for VoIP. The provocation for this decisions was a Nebraska case where standard telephone service regulation rules to Internet based voice communication in contradiction to FCC policy."

All well and good. But let's look at this beyond simply what's good for the VoIP industry.

In the early days, no one would confuse a VoIP communication with a "phone call" - you made the call differently, you used a different device. VoIP operated in a different context in our lives. So the regulations applying to phone service didn't apply -- it wasn't phone service.

But when Vonage "consumerized" VoIP by marketing it as broadband phone service, the duck rule applied. If it walks, talks, and acts like a phone call it's a phone call -- as several 2005 lawsuits against Vonage over emergency 911 calling made abundantly clear.

So here's the bottom line: If current telecom regulations are counter-productive or have outlived their usefulness -- for example the Universal Service Fee underwriting rural phone service -- then let's abolish them for all service providers. But if these regulations have merit, they should -- pardon my heresy -- apply to all providers, including VoIP.

After all, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

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