Coalition forms to steer VoIP policy

Coalition forms to steer VoIP policy

A group of companies, including AT&T, MCI, Intel and Texas Instruments, has banded together in an effort to influence VoIP regulation and policy making.

Calling itself the Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition, the companies, who all stand to profit from VoIP's adoption in the market, are encouraging the United States’ FCC and other regulators to use a "light touch" on VoIP to give the technology time to flourish in the market.

The companies said that ongoing policy reviews could lead to new regulatory barriers that would slow adoption and delay the benefits of VoIP. The coalition said olicymakers should not apply traditional telecom regulation to VoIP and that doing so could "stifle VoIP benefits".

The group intends to develop and highlight new policy solutions through a policy framework.

The FCC has been mulling over how to treat VoIP, which some people claim is an application on the unregulated Internet data network vs. a traditional telephone service.

VoIP service is currently mostly free of government regulation but there is an argument that VoIP carriers should include enhanced 911 services, pay into federal and state universal service funds and pay access fees, as other telephone service providers do.

US law enforcement groups, including the FBI, have also questioned whether VoIP providers would comply with phone-tapping requests unless required to do so in FCC regulations.

The VON Coalition said it supported efforts to address a number of critical issues such as the availability of 911 emergency services and law enforcement surveillance, but said that these and other concerns could be addressed without imposing heavy regulation on VoIP.

The coalition also favours a reassessment of the universal service fund to ensure its sustainability through a system of fair contributions from all providers of telephone number-based communications services.

The group said it also supported an overhaul of the inter-carrier compensation model to ensure fair compensation for carriers.

"Regulators should avoid imposing above-cost access fees to any type of Internet application, including any form of VoIP," chairman and CEO of VoIP service provider and coalition member ITXC, Tom Evslin, said.

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