Business

FCC regulation & VoIP: What’s next?

Michael Ventimiglia is a writer and editor at GetVoIP.com.

Things have been heating up between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the VoIP industry lately. It’s undeniable that the government installation has taken a more active interest in the future of the industry; however, they have often found themselves with little grounds to do so.

For example, earlier this year AT&T stated that under the state-based American Legislative Exchange Council’s model Internet is defined as an “informative service,” not a telecommunications service; therefore, the FCC has little right to regulate VoIP service. Additionally, the provider also look ed to abolish more regulation. In doing so the FCC was met with tremendous backlash—which has furthered the FCC’s interest in regulation.

And yet, despite all inner conflict, the FCC looks primed to implement new regulatory policies.

Today, the world is abuzz as FCC Commission Chairman, Julius Genachowski, a key figure in monitoring and regulating the technology industry, announced his resignation. Additionally, Commissioner Robert McDowell has also announced his planned departure. McDowell has been a formidable presence against the government’s involvement with the internet. That being said, McDowell’s stance was hinged on keeping US and foreign governments as well as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) away from internet regulation/control while stunting the UN’s control over the platform. Now, with his imminent departure on the horizon, the FCC’s role looks likely to change.

With this shift in personnel comes rabid speculation — i.e. who fill these men’s shoes, and what effect will these departures have on regulatory practices and policies. The next regime within the FCC will be forced to deal with a number of rising issues, including the decline of traditional phone service, the pros and cons of VoIP regulation, making broadband universal service, the standardizing of services, and user/provider/government concerns.

It seems likely that both FCC chairs’ replacements will come from both the Republican and Democratic parties. While this seems a minor detail, it’s important as both parties will be able to elect their own candidate regardless of their variances in ideas. This is definitely good news. With broader representation, it’s more likely that policies will be subject to more than one ideal/perspective; therefore, they may better represent a medium.

Yet regardless of who fills both Genachowski’s and McDowell’s shoes, it seems clear that the FCC will take a more active role in regulating/monitoring both VoIP as well as the internet at large. The days of using legal technicalities to evade regulation look to be over.

Speculation may be at fever pitch, but the facts are there too. In an increasingly connected, internet-based world it only makes sense for the government to pursue a more active role. Additionally, as PSTN services fade and VoIP continues to expand, regulation becomes more an eventuality than a possibility. The FCC, users/consumers, and service providers undoubtedly have their concerns—i.e. would increased regulation ultimately yield positive or negative effects? Would the industry’s size and growth be stunted, or would increased regulation be better for users?

However, it looks as though the gears are in motion. Regardless of stances both for and against, increased FCC presence seems inevitable. Even so, while changes loom on the horizon the future of the VoIP industry remains unclear.

Michael Ventimiglia is GetVoIP.com’s writer and editor. With experience in a variety of fields, Mike is able to offer unique insights on every facet of the VoIP industry, as well as other fields of technology.

VoIP call photo via Shutterstock


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