Saturday, July 31, 2004

FCC Roundtable on IP regulations (cont)

InfoWorld: VOIP providers: Regulation hampers growth: July 30, 2004: By : NETWORKING : TELECOM

Technology vendors speak at an FCC forum on global IP regulation
By Grant Gross, IDG News Service

WASHINGTON - U.S. regulators can play an important role in the spread of voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services by showing the rest of the world that the best way to encourage growth is by limiting regulation, said vendors of VOIP service and equipment Friday.

A consistent "light touch" approach on regulation throughout the U.S., European Union (EU) and other countries will also help VOIP grow, said vendors of VOIP-related products, speaking at a U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) forum on global IP regulation in Washington, D.C.


Some rural-state lawmakers want VOIP to contribute to the Universal Service Fund, which helps fund telecom services in rural and poor areas, and law enforcement officials want wiretap regulations to apply to VOIP calls as well as traditional telephone calls. Some traditional telephone carriers say VOIP should face the same set of regulations as they do.

But panelists Friday argued that old telecom regulations don't make sense for IP services, where state or national borders are erased. VOIP has the potential to break down not only national boundaries but boundaries between devices such as PCs, personal digital assistants and telephones, and traditional ways of regulating those devices no longer apply, said Al Safarikas, vice president of wireline networks for Nortel Networks Corp.

"The world's innovators are right now working on devices that we probably can't think of in this room in 100 years," he said. "IP will enable that, and all those boundaries will come down. (Regulatory) limits and boundaries are broken by technology."

What VOIP providers are looking for is consistent regulations throughout the world with certainty over what regulations they will face, added Kristen Neller Verderame, vice president for U.S. regulation and government relations at British Telecom Americas Inc. She advocated that nations "regulate where it's necessary, and only when it's necessary."

But U.S. debates over regulations such as access costs -- what prices competitors have to pay to gain access to U.S. broadband providers' networks -- are a major concern to British Telecom, she said. She called on the FCC to give VOIP "reasonable access costs," even as the FCC in the past year has moved away from regulations that require the incumbent owners of the U.S. telecommunications networks to share much of their networks with competitors. Since February, the FCC has been working on a policy for VOIP regulation.

"Regulatory uncertainty is a huge barrier," Neller Verderame said. "Look at the market, see where it's competitive, and see where it's not. Where it is needed, do the regulation. We're a bit worried about the U.S. at the moment, to be frank."

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