Optical/IP Networks

Insider Previews VOIP Upheaval

The regulatory headache surrounding VOIP will not be resolved anytime soon, as such a big issue is unlikely to be decided in an election year, according to a Light Reading Insider report published this week, Fed Watch: 2004 Regulatory Outlook.

Although Internet telephony will dominate the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agenda in 2004, the overwhelming consensus among industry insiders suggests the FCC’s Order on VOIP will not make it beyond red tape by year-end (see FCC's Powell: Let VOIP Be).

The FCC has said it that it recognizes the need for a basic level of regulatory certainty sooner rather than later. “It’s entirely possible,” says Christopher Libertelli, senior legal advisor to FCC Chairman Michael Powell, according to the report. “The chairman’s goal is to provide as much regulatory stability as possible, regardless of whether we’re in an election year.” But if there’s to be any action on VOIP regulation this year, according to the report, it’ll be around the Universal Service Fund, a subsidy that VOIP service providers are currently not obliged to pay. By late January, the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service will issue a recommendation aimed at shoring up the fund. Although the commission isn’t required to follow the board’s recommendation, it’s likely to, because that’s what has happened in the recent past and because three of the five FCC commissioners sit on the board, the Insider report says. Still, it could be a year before this is eventually approved.

Detailed insights into all five commissioners' positions on VOIP regulation can be found in the report as well as an analysis of the the states’ rights issue.

Beyond VOIP, the study digs into what’s happening with the Triennial Review, currently in the hands of the D.C. Circuit Court. It suggests that the aggressive schedule the court is working under could mean the whole thing will be transferred back to the FCC, which would mean more regulatory uncertainty (see Bells Challenge FCC Ruling).

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

The current Light Reading Insider report – “Fed Watch: 2004 Regulatory Outlook” – is available here. A single-user license to the report is $400. An annual single-user subscription to the Insider, which includes access to the complete archives, the current report, and each of the monthly reports issued over the next 12 months, is available for $1,250 per year.

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