The FCC's New Regulations and Your VoIP Service

Traditional telephone service providers AT&T and Verizon feel that increased regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) services is inevitable, but the amount of control they would like to see the FCC have is up for discussion. Options for residential users are changing, and accordingly, the FCC will need to change their regulations. Many home and business owners are beginning to see the added benefits of switching from a traditional phone company to a VoIP service provider. At the same time, how the FCC would like to regulate VoIP and how providers would like to see their service regulated differ in many ways. To help ease this transition for the many VoIP service providers out there, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association has asked the FCC to evaluate how to best regulate IP services in the future. If current FCC regulatory committees were to look at VoIP as it is, for example, AT&T and Verizon believe the growth needed to make VoIP the norm would be impeded. In fact, if AT&T and Verizon had it their way, the FCC would remain out of fiber optic network regulation altogether. With so many different forms of VoIP services available, and telephone service providers considering a switch to VoIP for smartphones, it’s almost inevitable that VoIP will grow in prominence. However, several VoIP service providers are already finding that, as the FCC changes their regulations, their growth is being hindered. Most of this stems from the fact that VoIP is being classified almost as a traditional phone service option. But even now what can be considered a traditional phone service option cannot be clearly defined. Before the advent of fiber optics and the growth of IP, it was easy to put labels on voice and cable service providers. Now it is common for a cable provider to offer voice services and, conversely, for a voice service provider to offer video services. It’s not going to be a simple task for the FCC to easily define how IP services should be regulated. That isn’t to say VoIP or fiber optic network regulation must be done away with altogether. Many assume it is a natural part of the process, but how the FCC goes about defining their regulation is another thing. In essence, the FCC must keep the consumer safe, but should try to re-evaluate how much freedom they are willing to give VoIP providers.