Residential VoIP Provider Vonage Wants Access to Numbering Resources for Its VoIP Services, and Verizon and AT&T Agree

Vonage is pressing its case with the FCC over access to the North American Numbering Plan (NANP. The residential VoIP provider would like direct access to number blocks without the rigamarole of bureaucratic red tape getting in the way.

Vonage notes that direct access would help the VoIP provider:

  • Lessen the number of handoffs
  • Improve call quality
  • Reduce delay
  • Minimize routing errors
  • Provide better service for less money
  • Simplify bill-and-keep transactions between carriers

The NANP system consists of 3-digit numbering plan areas (NPAs) and 7-digit numbers for 24 countries and territories, including the US, Canada, Bermuda, and 17 Caribbean countries.

Vonage has asked for a waiver of the FCC's somewhat outdated rules regarding the allocation of phone numbers, arguing that its request is in line with the FCC's own objective of "fostering innovation and speeding the delivery of advanced services to consumers."

The FCC, which oversees the duties of the North American Numbering Plan Administrator (NANPA), states that one of its objectives is "ensuring access to number resources for all providers." That largesse doesn't seem to extend to VoIP providers, however, without restrictions, and Vonage would like to be able to pursue its business interests on an equal footing with other, more traditional providers.

Competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) have raised objections to allowing interconnected VoIP providers access to new numbers by waiver. One concern is that it would accelerate number exhaustion and result in the creation of new NPAs (area codes), which is something the FCC is tasked with preventing (as much as possible). They also contend that it would give VoIP providers 'carrier rights,' when they aren't tasked with the same responsibilities.

However, Vonage does have the support of Verizon and AT&T. Both companies agree that the VoIP providers should be able to petition for number access, provided they follow the rules, especially with regard to number portability.