VoIP Gets Direct Line to Phone Numbers

The FCC has voted to give interconnected VoIP providers, including cable operators, direct access to phone numbers from numbering authorities.

Currently, only traditional and wireless phone companies can directly access phone number assignments from the relevant authorities.

The FCC has already conducted a trial of direct access to those numbers without turning up any problems.

The move is a step toward the migration of voice to an all-IP world, though the National Cable & Telecommunications Association did not file comments on the proposal because most cable companies have already figured out interconnection workarounds, said one cable source—the FCC has been working on the issue for a decade.

The item requires interconnected VoIP providers to comply with numbering rules and guidelines, notify state commissions 30 days before requesting numbers, and comply with facilities readiness rules and certify they have the money and capacity. They must also comply with Universal Service Fund contributions and 911 requirements.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn supported the item, but criticized the FCC's decision to "punt" on how to classify interconnected VoIP.

Commissioner Ajit Pai also supported the item, but said he was disappointed that the FCC did not reform how to pay for it.  "Some carriers financially benefit from the numbering system’s bells and whistles (in regulatory speak: intra-provider ports and 'modifies'), while their competitors must pick up the tab. Another problem is that payments are assessed on a declining and unsustainable base—telecommunications revenues—even though more and more numbers are in service," he said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.