Why Does The FCC Treat VoIP As The Ugly Duckling?
from the seems-a-bit-unfair dept
For years, when it came to regulating VoIP the FCC would pull out the “like a duck” test. That is, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. If it looks like a telephone service and acts like a telephone service, it’s a telephone service. Of course, this basically punished any new communications service that tried to be backwards compatible with traditional phone service by including them under complex regulatory controls that served no real purpose other than to “level the playing field.” This usually came after complaints from incumbents that it was unfair to make them compete against these new players that didn’t have those regulations (of course, ignoring why most of those regulations were put in place in the first place). However, what’s beginning to become clear is that the “like a duck” test isn’t actually being applied equally. If anything, VoIP is being treated as the ugly duckling that gets kicked around.
When it comes to the new Universal Service Fund requirements (yes, the same ones that waste money and actually hold back VoIP service that could help achieve universal service), the VoIP providers were given almost no time to get up to speed on rules that telcos have had years to understand. This may sound familiar. After all, it was just last year that the FCC gave a ridiculously short deadline of 120 days for VoIP providers to be E911 compliant — when they had given mobile phone operators many years. Eventually, the FCC did back down on the deadline, but apparently the FCC didn’t learn anything from that experience. As Jeff Pulver points out, they’ve done the same thing over and over and over again with all sorts of regulations. The FCC claims VoIP needs to be treated as a telco service, since it “acts” like a telco service, but then holds VoIP providers to much higher standards and provides none of the benefits that the traditional telcos get.