The FCC and VoIP: How Reduced Regulation Can Open More Customers Up to VoIP

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As Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) continues to expand to more and more users, the telecommunications regulatory body known as the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has begun to take notice. They would like to regulate VoIP accordingly, but first they must figure out how to correctly classify the service.

Both AT&T and Verizon recently filed a proposal with the FCC thats asks the commission to re-evaluate their stance on VoIP regulation. Though most users typically associate companies like AT&T and Verizon with traditional phone or mobile services, they also offer VoIP plans as well. Therefore, they have a big stakes in how the FCC decides to regulate VoIP.

All traditional phone service providers, not just AT&T and Verizon, are seeing the writing on the wall: the question is no longer “should I get VoIP?”, but rather “which VoIP?”. However, if the FCC gets too involved, the rapid expansion of VoIP could slow down significantly.

Cheap local, long distance, and international calling are all major selling points for VoIP, and providers would like to keep it that way. However, if the FCC hits providers with hefty taxes, or imposes regulations that require additional expenses, providers might have to increase their very low rates.

Ultimately, the FCC’s decision boils down to whether VoIP can be considered a telecommunications or an information service. The FCC regulates a telecommunications service, like traditional phone service, much differently than an information service. An information service, like the Internet for example, is almost regulation free. Being regulation free is part of the reason that Internet service has grown so fast, and has become commonplace around the world. VoIP providers would obviously like their services to be placed in the same category as the Internet, so that VoIP, too, can grow.

Part of that growth will include more and more customers adopting VoIP service for their residential and business needs. Businesses have found that the robust phone system options available with business VoIP can suit any need, whether it’s a home business or a large enterprise. However, increased FCC regulation will discourage smaller VoIP providers, those that may be able to offer a personal touch to local businesses, from entering the market.

The FCC and VoIP discussion has only just begun, especially now that big name providers like AT&T and Verizon have become involved. VoIP is an extremely cheap service, and proper regulations and policy decisions should guarantee that it stays that way for everyone. New regulation would guarantee that their is a healthy level of competittion among VoIP providers, so that there can be no monopolies, and that all providers are offering safe and reliable service to people all over the country, without discrimination. These policy changes may be expensive for the bigger telecom giants, but it should mostly mean good things for the smaller VoIP guys, who already provide reliable VoIP service to a satisfied customer base.

Rachel Greenberg writes about residential and business VoIP solutions, as well as VoIP news and policy.