Pure VoIP Won't Be Regulated, Phone-Like VoIP Might Be

from the split-decision dept

As expected, the FCC ruled on the Pulver VoIP petition today, and gave something of a split decision. They claim that “pure” VoIP systems shouldn’t be regulated, since they’re just like email or any other internet application. However, they’re reserving judgment on VoIP systems that more resemble regular phone service, such as Vonage that touch on the PSTN. This seems like something of a cop out, and may be difficult to sustain over time. Most of the “pure” VoIP systems are offering (or planning to offer) gateways that let them connect to the telephone system. Where do they fall along the regulatory spectrum? This would take away the incentive of VoIP providers to connect to regular phone service, creating two different levels of phone service, rather than connecting the two and leading to a more orderly migration. Of course, it still remains to be seen what sorts of regulations they will include for PSTN-connected VoIP. Chances are, they’re talking about adding in 911 service and phone-tapping abilities.

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Comments on “Pure VoIP Won't Be Regulated, Phone-Like VoIP Might Be”

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ramennoodle says:


That is a bit of a bummer. The Wall Street Journal article yesterday got it exactly right: Bush hasn?t done a thing to improve the telecom industry. He has just sat back and let havoc rule. As the country?s leader he needs to set the vision. He set one for Mars. Can?t he set one for broadband which is our economic future. All Bush does is convene ?high-level? meetings on broadband demand that don?t move the ball. Setting a clear national broadband policy will also greatly help the US create new jobs. A report by Criterion Economics for the New Millennium Research Council ( said 1.2 million jobs would be created in the next 20 years if the Bush administration had a broadband policy or plan. Isn?t that a good reason to move your butt!

Precision Blogger (user link) says:

Protecting the PSTN makes sense

If the FCC decides not to regulate VoiP applications that connect to PSTN, there’s a good chance they can undercut PSTN companies enough to drive them out of business, and then there’ll be nothing to connect to.

Right now VoiP is not good enough to justify signing a death warrant for old-fashioned phone calling. I know that’s what Mike expects, and I’m sure he’s right, but … this is a case where you don’t want to kill the gose that lays golden eggs until its eggs have turned entirely to brass.

– The Precision Blogger

bbay says:


Regulating telecoms is a good idea because they own the copper lines that run to everybody’s house, as well as the backbones that move all our data around. This makes them (collectively) a natural monopoly, which requires at least minimal regulation.

VoIP systems, on the other hand, have no natural monopoly. They’re just sending data over the existing information infrastructure. The only thing they have in common with the phone company is the fact that they send voice data. There’s nothing to regulate here. It’s just data on the net. What’s inside the packets is irrelevent from a regulatory standpoint. Give me about five minutes and I can be transmitting audio over the net, does that mean I should be regulated?

Put another way, telecoms aren’t regulated because of the fact that they transmit your voice, they’re regulated for other reasons. Therefore, the fact that VoIP also transmits your voice isn’t sufficient reason to regulate it like a telecom.

(Not that there can’t hypothetically be a reason to regulate VoIP, it’s just that the fact that it’s voice data isn’t a good one.)

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