Wednesday, October 06, 2004

62 Congressman Tell the FCC that VoIP should be considered Interstate

Should Europe go a similar path with VoIP?

From the Jeff Pulver Blog

62 Congressman Tell the FCC that VoIP should be considered Interstate...
...and that the FCC should have exclusive jurisdiction.

The following is a letter sent earlier today by members of the US House of Representatives to the FCC, including 33 members of the Energy and Commerce Committee and 29 non-committee members.


October 1, 2004

The Honorable Michael K. Powell
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Powell:

As you know, there are several legislative proposals pending
in Congress addressing regulatory issues involving Voice over Internet
Protocol ("VoIP) services. These services allow voice communications
to be converted into "packets" and transported over an IP network, such
as the public Internet or a privately managed IP network, to the desired
location. Each of the pending legislative proposals incorporates a
fundamental provision that declares VoIP services to be inherently
interstate in nature. We strongly agree with this broadly-accepted
cornerstone of pending VoIP legislation. We believe that such an
important, but narrow, finding cannot wait for a more comprehensive VoIP
bill to work its way through the legislative process. Therefore, we are
writing to urge the Federal Communications Commission (the
"Commission") to immediately declare that it has exclusive jurisdiction
over VoIP services. However, in doing so, any Commission action should
recognize the legitimate role of state consumer protection and public
safety laws of general applicability.

On the merits, we believe the Commission is on very firm
ground to rule in such a manner. VoIP services enable consumers to make
calls within their communities, across the country, or anywhere in the
world. With some VoIP services, a consumer can use his or her phone even
when traveling. IP technology also allows VoIP providers to integrate
video conferencing, document sharing, the forwarding of voice messages to
electronic mail addresses, and other enhanced functionalities, all
without regard to state boundaries. Finally, a VoIP customer^Òs phone
number is not necessarily restricted by geographic boundaries: a
customer living in Seattle could have a Boston phone number. In light of
the foregoing, it simply makes no sense to impose a collage of 52
different regulatory regimes on a service that has an inseverable
interstate (and international) component.

The Commission has before it a Petition for Declaratory
Ruling filed by Vonage Holdings Corporation. This petition gives the
Commission an appropriate opportunity to immediately declare that VoIP
services, whether traversing the public Internet such as Vonage^Òs or
over privately managed IP networks, are interstate in nature and subject
to the Commission^Òs exclusive jurisdiction.

We therefore urge the Commission to expeditiously issue a declaratory
ruling that VoIP services are interstate and thereby subject to the
Commission^Òs exclusive jurisdiction. We also recognize that there are
other issues the Commission is considering in the context of its Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking regarding IP-enabled services. We hope the
Commission addresses these issues, such as inter-carrier compensation,
universal service support, public safety, and disability access, in a
timely manner as well. We thank you for your consideration, and we
appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

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