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Reps Caution FCC About State VoIP Regulation Decision

Reps. Joe
Barton (R-Tex.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the ranking members of the
Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee,
respectively, have called on the FCC not to allow states
to collect universal service fees from Voice over Internet Protocol
(VoIP) providers.

That came in
comments from the pair of legislators on a petition to the FCC from
Nebraska and Kansas utility commissions for a declaratory ruling to that

Barton and Stearns told the FCC that if it is going to do anything, it should issue a rulemaking proposal so it can collect comment.

In 2004, the
FCC ruled in the Vonage Order that VoIP is an interstate service, adding that instead that it is
subject to USF fees that would run counter to subsequent
rulings that the Vonage decision preempted state fees. The rulings also created
uncertainty by raising the question of whether other state regs could be
applied to VoIP, Google and
Verizon, whose minds seem to be meeting more and more these days. They
recently jioned with AT&T, Microsoft and others to tell the
that they believed VoIP was inherently insterstate,
and that if they acted on the petition, they should do so narrowly,
making clear that states are preempted from regulating things like
entry, rates or other terms and conditions of service.

operators already pay into the national USF fund for VoIP based on a
predetermined formula of what percentage of calls are interstate, with
an opportunity to appeal that if they think the percentage
should be lower. Of course, if the balance of those calls are presumed
to be intrastate, it raises the question of why states should not be
able to regulate that component.