VoIP and the FCC

By now, the word VoIP and its basic capabilities are understood by most in business. Established businesses have likely received a sales pitch from a provider outlining the cost saving benefits plus other communication features. Most average consumers have likely encountered some literature on the technology and understand there is correlation to phone calling over the internet.

Supposedly, some may be using Skype with no real care as to how it works. Not everyone has an interest in a product beyond using the item as intended. Learning the details of operation is simply non essential for many technology consumers. As such, some users may only have a vague idea of how a VoIP app works, in the sense that it requires an internet connection to function.

Of course, for a select few, the gritty details make all the difference. This is especially true for those who make laws that govern such applications. Hence, there is a large debate in the US about how to classify certain VoIP services.

The viewpoint of the FCC

The subject of VoIP is currently under debate among officials in the FCC. Though in the past the agency did not want to interfere with internet communications, the new intent is to attempt to classify VoIP as a telecommunications service. This would require changes to the way many companies operate.

At the moment, internet telephony is simply regarded as an information service. This means that VoIP services and communication applications are not subjected to similar regulations to that of a telecommunications company. If this does in fact, go into effect, it would require a major overhaul for the organization as well as the companies it governs.

In a very convoluted release, a process of classifying VoIP providers as a telecommunications service would induce a tax called a pole attachment rate. Existing providers would likely be required to register as an official provider which would then subject the company to a small tax for utilizing internet bandwidth. It seems that this will greatly impact new providers as it would require the service to register (and probably pay a fee) before they can actually make the service available.

This is much different from the past where someone could create an application and distribute it on a hosting site or through a mobile store like the Apple App Store or Google Play. The result of this decision can really go one of two ways. Though it could bring in a large amount of additional tax money, it could also harm the market by discouraging competition. We may pick on some of the seemingly “fly-by-night” VoIP applications but they are still a part of the market. Applications like Skype didn’t start with over 500 million followers – they were new and unknown at one point too!

Leadership of the FCC

For as much criticism as many government organizations receive, the FCC actually stands above the rest. No one is perfect – the FCC has its flaws – but they constantly strive to make operations better and keep the playing field level. It’s not often that a team of people truly have a passion to make improvements and better yet, a clear understanding of the industry.

If you don’t pay much attention to the FCC, now would be a good time to stay informed. New laws and regulations could affect most living in the US to various degrees. The pending changes and current politics are making for an interesting change in the market.

Heading the operation of the FCC is Tom Wheeler. He was recently elected to this position in November of last year by President Barack Obama backed by a unanimous vote by the Senate. His background and dedication to making the telecom industry a better market sector make him an ideal person for the position. Wheeler is noted for many successful entrepreneurial ventures in the past that have made him a very well respected figure by both The Wireless Hall of Fame (yes, this really exists) and Cable Television Hall of Fame.

Playing Switzerland

The FCC is one such company that recognizes the plight of the public. Especially the American people – a nation of folks who love to exercise the rights granted to them by the Constitution – a vast majority are highly opposed to censorship or restrictions. The idea of restricting a worldwide resource for information does no resonate well with the people.

To sum up a great article, the FCC is fighting for net neutrality. Unfortunately, large companies have a say in this too. Large provider like Verizon, a child of the Vodafone Empire, is strongly contesting this movement to the best of their ability. Of course, the FCC lacks any authority outside of the US so the agency is attempting to find a way to collaborate with other governing agencies for telecom outside of the country.

Another effort is being undertaken at the moment too that involves the regulation of the wireless spectrum. The FCC and Wheeler in particularly feel that the old way of allocating the spectrum seemed to work better. As such, they will attempt to auction of unused parts of the spectrum as well as attempt to establish a method that will allow certain applications and transmissions to coexist.

There is a lengthy battle ahead for the FCC. One of the main components to the success of this endeavor is leadership. Hopefully, the team can remain organized and goal oriented which will ultimately serve consumers’ best interest.

About the author  ⁄ Mike

Mike has written for WhichVoIP.com for many years and has an extensive knowledge of the telecommunications market.

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