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Speak Up On FCC VoIP Regulation 127

Posted by timothy
from the appropriate-circumlocution dept.
jeffpulver writes "Speak now or forever hold your peace. The FCC will decide whether or not to regulate Internet Telephony in the U.S. over the next several months. On February 5th I filed a petition with the FCC on behalf of Free World Dialup, asking for a Declaratory Ruling that states that Broadband Internet Telephony which doesn't touch the public switched telephone network (PSTN) should not be ruled as either "Telecommunications" or as a "Telecommunications Service" as defined by the Telecom Act of 1996. On February 14th the FCC put the pulver.com petition out for public comment. The public has until March 14th to respond." This is an important issue -- read on below for some more information on the background and significance of the present petition.
A copy of the original petition is posted here. [1.5 MB pdf file]

Back in March, 1996 the ACTA Petition was filed which in effect asked for the internet telephony software companies selling to consumers to be treated to the same regulations as phone companies. While the FCC never ruled on ACTA, the petition started to raise questions about the future regulation of Internet Telephony in the United States and around the world. Some countries were quick to ban internet telephony based on the out of control hype that existed back in the Spring of 1996 while many other countries took a "wait and see" approach.

The pulver.com Petition is in many ways the exact opposite of the ACTA petition insomuch what I was asking for is that end-to-end Internet Telephony over Broadband remain unregulated. After seven years of waiting, now that VoIP technologies have gone mainstream and now that consumers are once again using these technologies and now that these technologies work quite well, I wanted to remove the cloud of regulatory uncertainty when it came to VoIP and broadband Internet Telephony. My hope is that "we" as a community can encourage the FCC for fast action on the FWD petition as a way for the FCC to help encourage investment. Once the regulatory uncertainty is removed, I strongly believe investors will once again look at the VoIP industry as the hot space to invest in and encourage innovation in.

Please take advantage of the pulver.com Petition and share your comments with the FCC. Click here for details on how to reply to the petition.Please reply by March 14th."

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Speak Up On FCC VoIP Regulation

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  • by jolyonr (560227) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:25PM (#5310704) Homepage
    Surely the transport mechanism doesn't matter. If you're providing a method for person A to talk to person B why should any one service be deregulated when others are regulated? I think that individuals using this over their broadband links is one thing, but for-profit companies wishing to invest into this industry don't have a strong case for avoiding regulation of some kind.
    • by LordNimon (85072) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:31PM (#5310733)
      What difference does it make if the communication between two points on the internet is voice data? How is that different from any other kind of data? What if I record my voice into an MP3, and email that file to my mom? Should that be regulated too? What if I write a program that emails MP3s between two people back-and-forth? It would be half-duplex voice communications, but I could hold a conversation with someone that way. Where do you draw the line?
      • If you are not providing service to anyone you should be fine already. The question is whether to regulate telecommunication services.
      • If the government read your comment and took it to heart they would just go ahead and tax all internet use and commerce.

        Logically it makes no sense whatsoever to not tax VoIP while taxing normal phone calls. If you argue that it shouldn't matter what kind of data is carried, everything will end up taxed.

        In reality, there is no good argument for no taxation of VoIP. The only solution is to accept that standardized or at least major provider-provided VoIP is going to end up taxed like other phone calls, or all internet access will be taxed, or both.

        If you really want to argue that VoIP shouldn't be taxed you have to prove that it is substantially different from normal voice communications, which of course is not at all true. The whole point of internet telephony is to provide users with a comfortable and consistent interface, IE, the telephone. Since both will use a lookup database of some sort to resolve numbers to lines (maybe we'll be using numbers, maybe it'll be tied to an email address or some single signon mechanism) and both types of data are carried over a packet switching network, I really don't think there's any strong argument to be made that they are substantially different. If there is one to be made, it is the lack of a need for a PBX to 'animate' these devices; They have no more and no less need for support when compared to any other IP device.

      • What if you have DSL? hmmmm... round and round we go... Then everything you send goes over telco lines...
    • But what about non-vocal ones like IRC?

      Or sending an email with a Wav?

      Or for that matter is VoIP covering MSN/ICQ/AOL/YAHOO IMs?
    • by DavidinAla (639952) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:34PM (#5310754)
      The better question is why should ANY of them be regulated? The rationale for regulating them in the old days was that it was a monopoloy service. If pretty much anybody can compete -- using the Internet as the infrustructure -- why SHOULD there be any regulation of the service?

      The existing phone companies like regulation because it shields them from further competition. There's no reason for them to be protected by the competition brought by new technology (which is going to lower the price of communication for consumers).

      David
      • The existing phone companies like regulation because it shields them from further competition

        Actually, the opposite is true. Regulation enables competition, without it, the babybells take over. With regulation, they are kept at bay, at least until they pay enough congresscritters to change it.

        • I'm sorry, but that's just not true. The only reason that the Baby Bells (or any other company) has a true monopoly is BECAUSE of a legacy of regulation. AT&T was given the monopoly in most of the United States in the early days (and smaller companies were given monopolies in areas where Ma Bell didn't want to go at the time).

          The situation we have today (where the incumbent local carriers have de facto monopolies) exist ONLY because government got involved to keep the competition out. Contrary to what you and many people mistakenly believe, regulation does NOT bring true competition. Only unfettered markets ultimately do that.

          We're in the situation where we are because of monopolistic government utility decisions years and years ago. The effects of those old decisions aren't going to go away overnight, but the market will ultimately bring competition, not bureaucrats.

          David
          • Wrong. The market can't create competition out of impossible circumstances. If a company has an absolute advantage through unmatchable economy of scale, natural resouces or some other intrinsic element deregulation is going to make the situation worse.
            • I disagree with your premise in the first place, but your application of your premise to this particular siutation is even less defensible. There is no natural resource involved in providing telephone service and the only reason the incumbent phone companies have any advantage that could be termed economy of scale is that they were given a monopoly through regulation, NOT through market action.

              You're looking at the mess that has been CREATED by regulation and then claiming that MORE regulation will fix it -- and that's just plain not true. There are no "impossible circumstances" involved in providing a true market in phone service OTHER THAN those circumstances that have been CREATED by the very thing that you apparently advocate.

              David
            • Regulation of supply and demand is a surefire way to hinder markets and create reduced efficiency and reduced competition. After all, if you prohibit company A from selling more than 100 widgets just so that company B can sell 25, have you really created competition? No, you've stolen from one and given to another.

              The only kind of regulation that can be helpful is regulation over the way information is provided to markets. For example, requiring that companies disclose the quality of their service guarantee to consumers. This kind of regulation helps consumers make rational decisions, which helps markets operate efficiently.


              Strong economies of scale, monopolies, and other characteristics of some companies are the biggest INCENTIVE to MARKET ENTRY for companies who are not yet in that market.

    • Why wouldn't the transport mechanism matter? The FCC is a national body, the internet is international. How can the FCC regulate something far outsite it's jurisdiction?
    • Surely it does.

      The reason that telecommunications is regulated because of the high cost of entry to the market. If there was no regulation, then the oligopoly that exists would charge exorbitant rates (See Bell, pre breakup).

      The broadband providers are in essence the same as the telephone service providers. In this instance, the computer & the VoIP software are parallel to the telephone, and the internet service (which routes the packets) is the equivalent of the switching system run by the telcos.

      Internet access, WAS taxed, until (i forget the name) a law passed that prohibited such taxation in the mid 90's.

      So, in short, VoIP isn't the same as Voice over POTS because the cost of entry into the market is extremely low -- In fact, there are Free alternatives available such as GnomeMeeting, which supports all of the X.whatever standards, much like NetMeeting.

      -Tomaj

      P.S. - It's not wise to look back and base future decisions on past necessities simply because you don't want to change the status quo. If things (such as e-mail and VoIP) don't cost anything to provide over other data transmission, then why tax it?.. To preserve an obsolete industry? If th FCC taxes VoIP (which would be hard to do anyway -- change the ports, run encryption), then TelCos are essentially having their cake (as ISPs) and eating it too (as Phone companies). This equates to the Coca Cola company installing temperature sensors into vending machines, jacking up the prices as the temperature rises.
    • Surely the transport mechanism doesn't matter.

      The hell it doesn't.

      why should any one service be deregulated when others are regulated?

      Telcos are regulated because they are considered to be natural monopolies (you don't want to have 4 phone companies with 4 sets of wires going to each home).

      Since VoIP doesn't have the 'natural monopoly' limitation of physical telephones, there's no reason they should be limited to one company in each locale, and hence, no reason for government regulation.

      The same can be said for cell-phone providers... There can be more than one company servicing the same area, so no need for monopoly status, and no need for government regulation (at least not regulation like normal telcos).
    • So... your argument is that VOIP should be regulated because other communications are. Can you think of any independent reason why regulating VOIP would benefit anyone other than the government?
  • Vonage (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I hope that this doesn't affect my Vonage. It was nice being able to tell qwest to kiss my ass, it would really suck to have to crawl back.

    I get local, long distance, voice mail, caller ID and a ton of other features for 25.99 a month
    • This doesn't cover Vonage, it says "which doesn't touch the public switched telephone network (PSTN)". Vonage talks to the public switched telephone network. This doesn't argue for regulating them or for not regulating them. You are safe even if they eventually like the petition, you just maybe regulated at a later time.

      Personally since I assume Vonage is regulated like the rest of the telephone companies (whatever that means), that should be sufficient. I mean what does that matter if the telephone is behind some copper wire carrying analog signals or an internet connection? I wonder though if Vonage competitors can then rent out the 'last mile' solution to offer customers competition all on Vonage's equiptment.

  • Hrm (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spazntwich (208070) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:27PM (#5310714)
    This issue has some interesting implications. On one hand, I want to say VoIP shouldn't be regulated, as the FCC really should have no say in the internet, but were that to happen, telemarketers might find some interesting and obscure loophole allowing them to call us relentlessly, all because they'd be using VoIP phones routed through some system allowing them to contact non-VoIP phones (ala the past internet-phone company startups).
    • My first inclination was for non-regulation as well, but we sometimes tend to jump rather quickly when we personally feel the weight of governmental oversight. As VoIP becomes more widespread, it has the potential to eventually become yet another vector for marketers to bombard us with undesired filth--all without having to follow the same rules which limit their already rapacious intrusions into our lives.
    • This is a very good point.

      I'm included to think that commercial provision to companies and end users of such a service should require regulation to protect consumers against fraudulent and inexcusably poor quality providers (who will be both individuals and other companies).

      This could even be part of a larger consumer rights act governing the way companies do business on line, with specific clauses and amendments for particular industries such as telecoms regulation (though such an act would have be be at Federal level in the USA and at European Union level Europe in order for it be effective and not suffer from regional loopholes).

      (While of course I appreciate the internet is global much online business is conducted within national or eurozone boundaries which is why it would be worth investing time in such a bill.)

      However...I'd like to think (and this is possibly just wishful thinking :-) that my dedicated VoIP phone of the future will be able to talk to the internet, my computer, PDA or mobile and obtain a list of allowed callers and only let certain numbers though (and give other users voicemail). While this is possible at present with Caller ID and PC software I hope it will be standard in "the world of tomorrow!".

      *Really* neat features would be:

      - Ability to check for black listed caller ID's in real time (ala MAPS/ORBS (only without Alan Brown :)).

      - Ability to take a number, connect to something like the W3C's vision of a Semantic Web and search and find a match for the the number - and so obtain the nature - of the business calling.

      This way you could only let certain types of companies through, while blocking others - i.e. always block banks and credit card companies, apart from my own bank and credit card company and always block companies like double glazing firms (unless I've said I'm expecting a call back from a particular company).

      If the caller was of "unknown" origin I'd like to be able to leave a brief recorded message telling them that if this is not an unsolicited call from a commercial entity to say 'leave a message' to leave a message on voicemail and I'll call you back (and warning them that if this was a commercial unsolicited call I'd prosecute the company who left the message).

      • I agree on all madeus' points and ideas.

        I'd like to explain why I believe the point of the telemarketers problem and the need for regulation on account of it, is irrelevant to VoIP communications:

        An advertiser cannot to place junk mail in your mailbox/po box, without going through the regulated postal service. He can, on the other hand, dropping off something at your front door (or throwing it from the driveway, to get around the tresspassing issue). He's still disturbing you (and littering) and your privacy, which is illegal.

        The same laws that are and will be signed against email spam, should exist for *all* internet mediums, from ICQ to newsgroups to mailing lists.

        PS- In case you were wondering about it too: I think web site advertising could not qualify in this list, since it is privately owned property, just as you may display an advertising poster on your house (as long holds up in court as free speech)

        My two cents,

        Monchanger
    • by Myko (11551)
      Read the intro, he says "...Broadband Internet Telephony which doesn't touch the public switched telephone network ..." That would cover the scenario you posted concerns about...
  • by Herby Werby (645641) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:30PM (#5310731)
    is the essence of this matter, imo. In the sense that the Net is a necessary part of any nation's infrastructure I think that the provision of Net services should be regulated and in the absence of competetive provision should be provided by government. The downside is that once the government gets its fingers in it's hard to keep them out. What we really need here is regulatory support without any regulatory repression. Rock and a hard place anyone?
    • And equally how do you regulate me in the UK calling you?

      Even better. AOL routes all it's UK customers through the US to avoid tax. Does this screw them? What if the UK comes up with contradicting regs?

      The global nature of the internet is a problem here.

      Having said that, how do they do it with PSTN internationally?
  • Is this necessary? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by molrak (541582) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:36PM (#5310761) Homepage
    "Once the regulatory uncertainty is removed, I strongly believe investors will once again look at the VoIP industry as the hot space to invest in and encourage innovation in."


    Is there any reason to believe the VoIP will flourish with regulation, let alone reason to believe that it will flourish without it? The telephone industry is an institution in the US. (Try living for a month without phone access). It seems to me that for VoIP to work en masse, it will have to be somewhat backward compatible with the current system.

    In short, I can see how VoIP would be cool if it worked completely free of the current phone networks, but I don't see it as practicle. In regards to this issue, I can see why it could argue that it should be regulation free, but on the other hand, I just don't foresee a market large enough to justify regulation for it. If I'm missing something, please feel free to enlighten me.
    • It occurs to me that there are significant uses for VoIP that don't require interoperability with the current telephone network. A company could use VoIP over a fast network for dirt cheap phone service inside the company. You could link several of these VoIP networks together, Internet2 could get in on the act, then we have services that use the internet to allow cheaper long distance calls by interoperating with the telephone network (like Net2Phone), and we'd have something truly worthwhile. The point of this is, I think, is that letting the US government get their grubby bribed would be a bad thing.
    • Sir, I take your challenge! I will be cancelling my phone service within' the next two weeks. I have already removed the phones from my house and plan on going totally internet communications. The reason for this is I'm a student. A poor student. And I can't afford another $30 - $40 a month. This is because of long distance charges which add up because everyone I talk to is long distance. I am in the process of switching the few people I talk to on a regular basis over to some sort of VoIP type situation, more than likely using Messenger. I am buying them all mics as that seems to be the biggest problem and installing the software for them. They all have broadband, I have broadband, and we are all paying for it. I might as well save some charges on local and long distance services by using a medium that I am ALREADY paying for.

      That's what I'm thinking anyways. Maybe we'll see if it works out or not, but it'll be a good test to see how long I can go without using Ma Bell (I'm in Canada).
  • by argoff (142580) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:39PM (#5310777)
    When it comes to anything other than basic crime or perhaps national defense, I just don't trust the govt anymore to secure my rights. I honestly trust technological solutions alot more than political ones. e.g. Implementing technology that makes it impossible for them to regulate voice calls without shutting down the internet. This is the way the future simply has to go, and I think our efforts and money would simply be better spent there.
    • so what your <i>trying</i> to say is we would be a better off if our country was ran by a bunch of cyborgs?!?!? interesting... perhaps you trust technology more than politics because you 'know' technology, and politics is mostly foreign to you.<BR> s
      • Actually I like politics when it works, because is it so much better to fight with words rather than force. But politics is not an end in itself, libery is, and politics is just one of many way's to secure my rights; another way is by leveraging tecnology.

        If anyone knows how to make the system work, how to out politic the RIAA, DCMA, the abuses of "intellectual property", insane taxes, phone regulations and what not - I would love that, I would cry out place tham on a pedistal to be adorned. But, to be honest, this is not happening and I can't see it happening unless change is forced from the outside. By leveraging technology, I can actually see a light at the end of the tunnel.
    • I honestly trust technological solutions alot more than political ones

      So the government will take my freedom away when they can factor a really large integer ?
      Just kidding, I actually agree with your point.
  • by kfg (145172) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:43PM (#5310795)
    if we don't get this ruling then VoIP may well be blocked by the government. Voice bits, being inately fatter than data bits, can be,literally, screened out by the simple installation of a physical filter in the cable.

    KFG
  • by AirLace (86148) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:45PM (#5310803)
    If broadband Internet Telephony which doesn't touch the public switched telephone network (PSTN) is ruled as "Telecommunications", it could be very problematic for Linux distributions like RedHat, which ship software like GnomeMeeting, especially as they can be used to provide a cryptographic telecommunications system in conjunction with ssh tunneling or CIPE. Until distributors exclude such software from their distributions, software like RedHat 8.0 and Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 would be illegal in the United States.
    • I would envisage any regulation as being applied only to corporations offering a VoIP service, where I think regulation would be welcome as it is in the consumers interest (and consumers are both individuals and corporations and corporations have a very large vested interest in getting a reliable service with an accountable provider).

      It may also cover (as it already does in many areas of the world today to some extent) hardware devices that you plug into the network (i.e. in the UK all devices plugged in to your phone socket (Telephones, Modems, Answering Machines) must BABTA approved, to prevent personal injury to you, other telecoms system users or telecoms engineers).

      At the moment there are many software based phone interfaces that work via a modem, they are not regulated (and as far as I am aware there is no legislation either in the USA or the UK requiring them to be regulated - even if there is they are still not actually being regulated :-). VoIP software on your PC is no different. There is no reason or precedent to think that VoIP client software is likely to come under scrutiny.

      Instead, I predict (rather uninspiringly) that carrier VoIP equipment (physical hardware for connecting to PSTN) will continue to be regulated and we are likely to see some addition regulation governing service provision (particularly with regard to data protection and unsolicited commercial usage - most probably extending existing users rights to voice calls that terminate or originate with a VoIP session[1] - and with regard to service quality and commercial obligations when connecting VoIP calls to PSTN).

      [1] Many carriers already tunnel calls over VoIP, especially international calls, and you can't always be sure if a long distance call is or isn't using VoIP so it's likely any legislation would focus on the termination and/or origin of the call. Ideally I'd be interested to see regulators to make the bill more generic and extend consumer rights and protection's to other forms of electronic communication, but I suspect that is a can of worms few are willing to open.
  • There is the issue of universal phone access. If a large segment of the market flees the existing carriers, it will become even more uneconomical to provide service to everyone in the US. The univeral access fees would have to be increased, putting the telcos at a further price disadvantage. I don't shed any tears for the telcos, but we should apply these special tax/surcharges without regard to the transport being used (land line, cell, voip, sat phone, whatever).
    A good compromise would be to levy the universal access fees on any dialable phone number (e.g. Vonage) but leave pure IP based service free (it would be difficult to inpossible to regulate anyway), and not impose any additional regulation on voip carriers.
    • A great many people are already leaving thier local carriers and thier bloated fees. More and more people are using only a cell phone to communicate with other people. I would do the same thing, but I had to have a telephone line installed before I could have my SDSL line installed.
    • Except the universial access fees are not well distributed. I have relatives who live in North Dakota, they pay about $10/month for unlimited local calling. I pay $20/month for metered (pay by the minute, unlimited is $40/month) local calls. Now I will grant that my calling area is bigger by a long shot, but I still pay a lot more, plus I pay that universial access fee. The point of the fee is to make it worthwhile to provide service to areas that could not otherwise afford it. (a rich person can get service anywhere, just pay for instalation, a poor city neeghbor hood is cheap to provide and within budget, while millionire farmers are still too expensive for their budget.) So why do farmers pay so much less than city dwellers? I could see a little subsities, but the poor in the cities are still paying more than the farmers (some of whome are poor, and some rich) for their service.

      Since I'm another of the out of work computer programers I've giving serious thought to my bills, and the universial access fee looks outragious when I know what my bills are.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Okay... so I read the petition, and afaict they're trying to find loopholes. They point out some areas where their services is slighly different from what is defined in the Telecom Act. They just didn't seem to make any strong arguments.

    However, and this is much more important, they never explained (not in the petition nor in the submission) -why- their service should be unregulated.
    Here are some questions for pulver.com:
    Why was the Telecom Act written? What does it say that is harmful to consumers? Why should we help your company fight it, and what does your company win if your service is unregulated, and what does it lose if it gets regulated? What does it mean for your customers?

    You claim there will be innovation in the VoIP field once it gets unregulated... why is that? What regulations are so harmful?

    So, yeah, I have lots of questions here. I don't expect to get them all answered. But I have a feeling we're not getting the whole story here.
    • There seem to be two fundamental questions at the base of this discussion:
      1. Is it appropriate for one IP application be regulated separate from others?
      2. Should voice communications, regardless of their medium of transmission, be regulated similarly?
      These are both interesting questions that could be the subject of learned /.'s, but I'm not sure that the discussion has practical significance, as this is one of many areas where regulation trails practice.

      Telecom regulation is intended to protect customer pricing and access to service. However, competition among carriers has brought service offerings so far above the tariff standard that almost no one pays tariff rates (around $0.25/min for long distance) for service anymore.

      VoIP is another force which will ultimately drive down the cost of service. And like it was with DSL, there are some new players who have managed to get out in front with offerings, but at the end of the day, it will mostly likely be the established carriers who will benefit from VoIP. There is just a tremendous advantage to owning the infrastructure (and customer base) which, over time, is very difficult for a competitive carrier to beat.

      I'd have to believe that every large carrier has a long-term strategy of increasing the percentage of packet-switched traffic on its network relative to circuit-switched. The idea of exploding the applications for their existing cable and infrastructure is just too compelling to do otherwise. This migration is a megatrend, and IMO it's not likely that regulation is going to significantly speed it or slow it.

  • by Azureflare (645778) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:49PM (#5310817)
    Disclaimer: I am not an expert on these things, so this is my perspective/opinion

    I feel that if VoIP is regulated, this brings into play a very interesting question. Is the internet, which can be used for almost anything besides transferring actual physical objects (wouldn't that be cool!), something that can be split into different segments? To target one function of the internet, VoIP, is to invite regulation of other services. Take streaming video for example. Should that be regulated like TV? The same goes for internet radio. Where is the line drawn? This is what needs to be established. The internet is so much more complex than simple telephony, that it is impossible to only regulate one aspect of it, without taking into account the other aspects. The internet is not like airwaves; it is not like telephone lines. Why does regulation exist? Does it exist to give profit to a little clique of individuals? Or does it exist to bring order to a limited resource? The internet is by design, a non-limited resource. Theoretically, it could hold a very large volume of traffic, and deal with it fine. There is no reason, to regulate something which does not need regulating. People want it. Companies have to step up, and give them what they want. The government has no role in this aspect. If it puts the telephone companies out of business, so be it! Just like the RIAA, and the railroad companies, they will cling to their vestiges of power and control as long as they can, and this only halts technological advance and innovation. We must be on the cutting edge, or we will be left biting the dust by other countries.

    • Man, you are right on. If they wanted to regulate all this shit they should have not put sockets into computers at all. I'm sick of all this government regulation bullcrap. The FCC should only concern itself with FREQUENCY and POWER, not be screwin with everyone by using their POWER FREQUENTLY!

      Ahhhhhh!
    • Is the internet, which can be used for almost anything besides transferring actual physical objects (wouldn't that be cool!)
      Totally OT, but hey:
      • Z-Corp [zcorp.com] makes color 3-D printers that make plastic objects. These'll generally run you under $10k.
      • Strata Sys [stratasys.com] makes stereolithography printers. More expensive, and not in color, but stronger. They're about $30k.
      • EOS GmbH [eos-gmbh.de] makes printers that make metal parts. You can print out replacement parts for your car, rocket ship, etc. (Warning - web site uses Flash, Mozilla-squashed popups, annoying no-copy PDFs) No mention of price on the site :-/
      If you don't want to sping fr a printer of your own there are lots of people who will do it for you. [dmoz.org]
  • As long as there is no telephone number is used in providing the service, it shouldn't be considered a Telecom service.
    • Not quite so [slashdot.org] evidently. This ENUM (e.164.in-arpa) system, would give your internet connection a 'phone number'.. which would be most useful for voip.

      Im sure your government will find some way to lock it down to 'protect your freedom'. After all if it works kinda like a dynamic DNS, it will make it easier to track p2p sharers. people that do illegal shit online... 'Unpatriotic' postings.... 'dissidents' 'people that say bad things about gwb'... oh i mean 'TERRORISTS!'

      1) Grab IP address.
      2) do an e.164.in-arpa to get 'phone number'
      3) look up in reverse directory

      Cool... no need to subpoena ISP's. Heh, this is actually kinda scary...

      Sure am glad I dont have 'US Freedom' no matter how hard bush tries to force it on the rest of the world...
  • Too bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eniu!uine (317250) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:50PM (#5310823)
    we can't get petitions like this for issues I'm more educated about(i.e. DMCA). I like the idea of point and click democracy.

  • No connection (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Forgotten (225254) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:53PM (#5310842)
    But do you really want VoIP telephony to remain unconnected to the POTS network? The existing telephone network is a tremendously useful infrastructure. People who dream about global networks seem to often miss the fact that we already have one. And I'm sorry, but a significant part of that tremendous public good comes from the fact that it's been regulated - particularly when you consider countries outside North America, and particularly poor ones.

    Trying to keep Internet telephony away from POTS is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Imagine if you were asking for cell phones or marine radio phones or satphones to remain unconnected from landlines. Is there then any real point in having them? Without regulation you end up with little fiefdoms, islands of communication. "Well I met my spouse because we both had Nokias, ya see". I actually think we've only barely avoided this in the cellphone standards wars to date.

    I want communication to be ubiquitous, and I want less separation of modes, not more. The history of telephony deregulation in the US and Canada is not an inspiring one. Part of the reason Internet communication has so far eluded these calls is that it's been so damn useless no one really cared. As it becomes something that affects people's lives, you're damn right democratic representation will get involved. You see the same force at work in the increasing calls for spam legislation. What is that but email regulation?
    • But do you really want VoIP telephony to remain unconnected to the POTS network? The existing telephone network is a tremendously useful infrastructure.

      Ever hear of DSL?
      • I was going to mention that, but left it out for brevity. For that matter VoIP can work nearly as well over the PSTN with a regular modem as, well, POTS (for reasons that are probably obvious - the bandwidth available is only slightly less).

        It's interesting to note that the post specifically limit itself to broadband VoIP, though broadband isn't technically required. It's really an attempt to end-run around existing telephony regulations.

        There are pros and cons to telephone regulation, but if someone's going to oppose it they should just oppose it for all modes of communication, not try to sneak around like this. It's a functional question, not a specific technology issue. Should voice communication be regulated? The medium isn't the message, this time.

        • your missing the point of why telecommunications was origionally, and still is, regulated.

          It was regulated because the landlines had to be laid. The government granted monopolies to the companies laying cable, in exchange for their willingness to sell wholesale time on these cables. This created a government mandated monopoly that still allowed fair competition.

          VoIP doesn't depend on these granted monopolised cables any more than the regular internet does (which is already regulated by the FCC because most ISP's still have to use these regulated copper and fiber cables owned by the telco). Regulating VoIP with yet another layer of restriction would be double restriction. There is already plenty of _healthy_ competition between ISPs. for these reasons, a second layer of regulation is not needed.

          The only reason anybody would want to regulate VoIP the same as landline telephones is so the bells can stay in business. But in the end, we shouldn't be passing laws to keep failing, obsolete, inefficient, and humanity damaging business models afloat.
    • Re:No connection (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kien (571074) <kienNO@SPAMmember.fsf.org> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:59PM (#5311151) Journal
      Forgotten, I wonder if you work for a telecom company...because I do. And I totally understand every word of your post because my job's at stake too. I just wanted to state that first.

      The existing telephone network is a tremendously useful infrastructure. People who dream about global networks seem to often miss the fact that we already have one.

      That is extremely insightful; it's something that we should keep in mind.

      And I'm sorry, but a significant part of that tremendous public good comes from the fact that it's been regulated - particularly when you consider countries outside North America, and particularly poor ones.

      I can neither refute nor support this statement (I'm not that familiar with international telecom deployment), but it does make me wonder if perhaps you're confusing the government-regulated monopoly over telecommunications until 1984 with regulation in general when it comes to how we deployed this existing network? If I'm wrong, sorry but even if I'm right it raises the following question: would we have been able to run a copper line to every house in the United States (sorry folks, no snobbery, I can only talk about what I know) without a government-supported/regulated mandate?

      If you want to REALLY dig into this can of worms, let's assume that AT&T WAS necessary for copper-to-the-home and while we're in hypothetical mode, let's say that AT&T hadn't been barred from data communications by governmental regulations. Would the internet have taken off like it did (empirical question...but keep in mind that we used dialup for a LOONG time before broadband hit the scene)?

      That's just some background to hold in your /swap. Now VOIP hits this scene at a time when the holders of the last-mile are at fierce odds with the holders of the backbone, and none of them can seem to get along when it comes to wireless (again, I'm talking US here).

      I percieve a danger in your raising this question right now, jeff. I think you might be raising code and content layer questions while the underlying physical layer is still highly volatile. I agree that VOIP should be unregulated, but I fear that you're putting the cart before the horse in the USA.

      The state of the telecom industry in the USA is simply the culmination of a comedy of errors. I see VOIP becoming viable in Europe before it takes hold in the US...much like wireless service.

      I applaud your efforts, Jeff...I just hope that you're not too far ahead of your time when it comes to the US and the FCC. :)

      --K.
      • Hi Kien, I don't think he's in the business. Then he would have called it PSTN or ISDN (depending last mile gear).

        POTS is the good old switch based value added services (called VAS in the alphabet soup). It's stuff like dialing *-something to call the last number that called you etc.

        The alternative to POTS is Intelligent Network (IN) where you run your stuff on a seperate platform (this is where I make a living). Gsm prepaid and number portability is the big thing here.

        But anyway. The massive problem with VoIP as I see it is not in the regulation area but in interfacing and money.

        If somebody makes a call from the IP carrier to a PSTN subscriber there has to be an interconnect agreement between those two carriers to exchange the money for terminating the call in pstn country. In order to do efficient routing you have to have these interconnects all over the place and in order to prevent long distance pstn call-legs.

        The other way around is even better. What telephone number do I dial on my pstn phone to call an IP phone ? The international numbering plan is not something you just muck around with. Thats ITU-T stuff and known to be slow as hell.

        Forget the technical problems with VoIP. Money and cooperation is the real killers.

        sig: TCAP-abort

        • Forget the technical problems with VoIP. Money and cooperation is the real killers.

          Amen to that john. Perhaps the entertainment companies aren't the only ones that need to revisit their business models.

          I wonder if it would be heresy to suggest that the US government seize control of the "last mile" in order to level the playing field. I'm not sure whether or not I'd advocate that position because I'm not clear about its implications or legal ramifications, but it's worth a look.

          I believe that governmental intervention should be considered an option when (and ONLY when) competing companies can't "play nice" and that society suffers as a result.

          --K.
  • Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kahei (466208) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @07:53PM (#5310844) Homepage

    If voice over IP is regulated like analog phone, it should also have similar privacy provisions to analog phone. And if those provisions were to spread to other IP traffic (on which your right to keep secrets and not be spammed is minimal), that would be a very good thing indeed.

    Of course, it might not pan out that way; I wouldn't be surprised if in fact the protection of phone calls wound up being eroded to the point emails are at now (i.e. anyone with a security interest can read you, anyone with a commercial interest can spam you).

    One day the current regulatory glitch will end, and when this happens I'd much rather have everything be run like phone calls are run now than like emails are run now.

    • You have an excellent point, but I think you underemphasized part of it. (In the USA,) anyone with a security interest can read you(r e-mail *WITHOUT A WARRANT*). The same thing applies to VoIP telecommunictions. No warrant is required to listen in.

      A warrant is however required for monitoring a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) phone. It's funny how our courts have decided that the fourth amendment does not apply to digital communications.
    • While phone calls are *legally* granted privacy,
      it exists only on paper in the US. CALEA
      mandates that various pieces of telco hardware
      be easy to wiretap. Cellphones aren't encrypted
      in the US to make monitoring easier; to protect
      your privacy, they just make it illegal for
      private citizens to own the monitoring hardware.

      Most likely, the privacy of the aggregate system
      would be the lowest common denominator - phone
      spam unleashed and voice greppers applied to all
      the phone networks. (Though I strongly suspect
      that the latter is already the case.)
  • Oh great (Score:1, Redundant)

    by gregsv (631463)
    Just what we need, more government regulation. After all, we all know how well that usually works out.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    As long as I can run a wire or set up two antenneas between my work, home, and my Dad's house, and talk over them, the telecoms are doomed. In 30 years no one will make money off of selling bandwidth infrastructure any more than they have ice delivered now. Refriderators meant we could make our own ice, and new technology will render all fat parasitic telephone company slobs jobless. Bring it on.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 15, 2003 @08:31PM (#5311007)
    I agree with the original poster.

    Clearly, regular telephone service must be of very high quality. Regulation seems to be a reasonable way to guarentee the highest quality phone service and to manage the local telco monopolies from spinning out of control.

    And that's why VOIP, when connected to the NA phone network and when allocated traditional phone numbers should be regulated the same way. Simply put, I have an expectation of service. In an emergency, my phone HAS to work. Post-failure lawsuits are not a satisfactory regulatory option.

    On the other hand, a personal telephone system, aka "Intercom System", need not be regulated, regardless of the number of people on that system. Just as long as there is a clear understanding that these disconnected systems are not held to the same standards as a real telephone.

    In other words, if I dial 911 on a telephone, I expect response. If I dial 911 on some unregulated telephone system, I should KNOW that it isn't a real telephone system.

    I have a VOIP phone at work. It sucks. Poor quality, poor stability.
    • Vonage is a VOIP service and believe me, it's quality and reliability does NOT suck!
    • I am not sure if you have tried it but for me it works works as advertised.

      I pay 26.77 including taxes (a stunning 48% discount from my RBOC) for local service, caller ID, voice mail, call forwarding, etc, and 500 long distance minutes. The sound quality is comparable, with only spoardic latency problems. The company I have lets you manage/listen to your voicemail via the web, forward your calls if the network is unavailable, get real time online billing, and offers virtual numbers (extra fees) that allow unlimited local incoming calls from any area code they offer service. If I need 911 I have three cells phone usually within reach. BTW, not everyone in the US even has 911 service.

      I have kissed my POTS goodbye and couldn't be happier.

      Try it, you might be suprised and you will save significant $$$s.

    • I think everyone here is suffering from a severe case of no-timeline-prespective-itis.

      Consider for a moment just how long the telephone was in operation before we gained our current level of quality and flexability. Now consider the state of VoIP.

      Do you really expect VoIP to do what POTS does now next month?

      But that's not all the needs to be considered. I keep hearing this and that about regulation resulting in a higher quality of service. While regulation can provide a higher quality of interoperability, it very rarely provides a higher quality of service.

      While we're swapping anecdotal evidence, I'll bring up two situations that most people on /. are quite familiar with now:

      1. Airport security. Yes, it's the whipping boy of everyone right now, but consider for a moment: this is a regulated service now. Admittedly, it's the ultimate in regulation (total control), but still. Has the quality of service gone up or down since regulation? In the places where it has gone up, could that have been as easily achieved by hieghtened citizen concern about the state of airport security?
      2. UPS/FedEX vs. Postal Service. UPS/FedEX are essentially wihout regulation. The Postal Service is highly regulated. Supposedly the Postal Service is run entirely off of revenues, so they are essentially a heavily-regulated semi-private entity. Now consider which company has more trust: UPS (or FedEX), or the USPS?

      I've chosen some easy targets here, so let me choose some harder ones so I don't get flamed for just showing the negative cases.

      Consider the phone company, which the above post thinks so highly of in terms of quality of service. Local phone service is more regulated than long distance phone service. Taking into account increased entropic tendancies inherint to long-distance communications, which service provides a higher quality at a lower price? Also consider the responsiveness of your local phone service in comparison to your long-distance phone service (I'm assuming here that you're not going for a bottom-of-the-barrel-no-frills long distance service).

      How about an example of a tech-oriented thing that is without government regulation (as much as that is possible in this day and age)? How about Ethernet. Any 10BaseT card out there can talk to any other 10BaseT card out there, in addition to any 10BaseT hub/switch/router. This is entirely done with standards by committee, not standards by mandate. (sidenote: yes, I know...the electricity flowing across those cables is "regulated" by the FCC, and your purchase of the NIC was probably "regulated" by the Commerce Department. The question is: would Ethernet be better off as a government-regulated system?)

      Now, given the number of people on /. who are "pro-innovation", I think it highly likely that many of the people saying that regulation would be a good thing intersect with the "pro-innovation" group. It's unfortunate that the two proposals conflict. How? Let me describe this for you:

      We consider an inventor to be an innovator. Let's say that I am an inventor, and I build a new kind of refridgerator. Wonderful little device, cools things much better than anything else out there. Let's say that I want to sell my little contraption, and a hundred of its brothers. If refridgerators are regulated, however (as they are...the cooling system in a refridgerator is regulated by...oh, I can't remember what agency. Probably a TLA, if I had to guess), then I cannot sell my little box. Instead, I have to submit its designs and probably a sample to a regulatory commission, and pay the regulatory fees and so on and so forth. This means I have to get more money together to do this, which increases my reliance on capital investors, and reduces the likelyhood of me going to market. Thus my innovation has a reduced chance of success. Chilling effect, if you will.

      There are quite a few other reasons why regulation tends not to be a great idea:

      • As a practical matter, if a company conforms to regulations, they are idemnified from mishaps due to poorly thought out regulations. Bad juju.
      • Regulatory commissions are notoriously slow to change, so rolling out a new system can be painfully slow - regardless of technical merit
      • Regulatory commisions tend to amplify the power of the leading company in the industry, as that company is the one most listened to when it comes to forming standards. This can be used to enforce that company's lead on the other companies, and, further, make other companies fight on the leading company's turf.
      • Regulations tend to be overbroad in classification, conflating roles more often than not. Consider power systems. Now, whether or not you agree with power deregulation (in ANY of its forms) it is very difficult to argue that power delivery, and power generation are the same role. This is not to say that one company cannot assume both roles (it is routine for a company to assume many different roles), but the roles are distinct.

      One last thing: a common argument for regulation is expectation of service. The "post-failure lawsuits are not a satisfactory regulatory option" jab as in the above post is usual. Consider, though: a failure to meet regulatory requirements in one customer instance and a failure to meet a previous Service Level Agreement in one customer instance works pretty much the same: you sue for damages. In the regulatory instance, you have the additional leverage of putting pressure on the company through the commission, but an SLA violation case is much easier to try and damages are usually much greater than the cumulative effects of a lawsuit against a regulated agency and regulatory pressuring.

      Oh, and in regards to the SLA you get out of an unregulated company vs what you'll get from regulation...take the SLA. Every time.

      As usual, I could be wrong. If you think I am, I'd be delighted to see your reasons for thinking so. I've changed my mind in the past.

    • I've had VOIP (IP Telephony) for nearly 5 years at work and the quality is as-good-as or better than our traditional PBX systems.

      Additionally I'm also a Vonage customer and even running over the rough and tumble Internet, the voice quality and availability are excellent.
  • as a bit of a pre-waring, I'm lazy...

    ok, while I feel that they shouldn't be butting in on this, I don't really know how to tell them that. If you're gonna make an argument, make a clear and consise one...

    I have finals this week, and my brain is fried from studying. it's one thing to post to slashdot, it's another to convice a government agency that they need to keep out of a field because I don't want them making money at my expense.

    as much as I hate to say it, is there a cliffnotes for this subject- something I can spend 10 minutes reading before sending an intelligent and informed message to them?

  • Simple; VoIP systems connected to the public telephone network can be regulated like circut-switched calls, and systems that are purely digital can rely on encryption for their security. Stick the regulatory gizmos at the interfaces. Simple.
  • This is important (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sbwoodside (134679)
    This is really, really important in order to prevent barriers from preventing widespread adoption of VoIP. The major telcos are highly threatened by VoIP because it effectively eliminates their revenue from long-distance calling. The idea of this initiative is to make sure that VoIP calls are treated like any other data on the internet. The telcos would love to be able to prevent you from using VoIP and somehow be able to charge money for it.

    I think that slashdotters know that eventually, the technology will win the war. So, it is better to get the right technology into the right hands now.

    simon
  • If they regulate net telephony, why not regulate tins cans and string.

    The reason why industrial regulation is acceptable is because it is not a severe limitation on individual liberty. With net telephony, anyone who knows how to use the sockets library, and send UDP packets can write their own net telephony code.

    Why would we want to regulate that? Classifying *ANY* software that can do net telephony is obviously overly broad.

    Anyone who thinks this is a good idea, should remember how most protocols on the net got started: individual freedom to tinker.
  • What's the point? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by matman (71405) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:11PM (#5311505)
    Aside from avoiding long distance charges and facilitating better sound quality, what's the point of voice over IP for consumers? We have a huge infrastructure in place for the faciltiation of voice over a switched telephone network that works fairly well and comes at a fairly low cost. I can reach a remote village in central
    America, over the phone, but in many of those places, you'd be hard pressed to get electricity for a computer, let alone an ISP.

    For carriers, there's an advantage of a unified infrastructure; any service can be provided over the same network. In that sense, the regulation issues arise; what services should be regulated, how, and why?

    If the same network is being used for telephone, radio, TV, etc, what regulations apply? Frankly, does anything really need to change from a regulatory perspective? Today we have a shared network for these services (the electromagnetic spectrum); in the future, we may have a time division multiplexed packet switched network over which those services travel.

    Even today, regulations of the telephone network impact data communications - you use the telephone network to connect to the Internet. You use the cable network to connect to the Internet (depending on your access method).

    Why do we have regulation of these services anyway? What are the regulations that are imposed on telephone carriers?
  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:18PM (#5311554)
    The FCC must really think this is important to assign it a docket number this quickly. They assigned one in less then two weeks! Usually, it takes 4-6 months for them to do that!
    They've also suspended their ex-parte rules insofar as comments are concerned to make it easier to file them. Be assured that I shall file comments.
  • The government got into the telecom regulation business to throttle abuses of the AT&T monopoly. There exist no inherent reason to regulate telephone service. Forget the idea regulation obtains low cost, reliable service. Forget the idea the Universal Service program helps the poor. Telephone service remains out of reach for the poor. The monopolies doubled the cost of service in the last 10 years. Forget subsidies. Telecommunications proved the worst performing information technology sector during the 20th century. Pick any metric. Cost performance improvements. Employment growth. Revenue growth. The breakup of AT&T in 1984 made some aspects of telecom competitive and left some under monopoly control. Check the relative performance of the two. Consider what might have happened if the government decided to regulate computing. We would still be sharing time on an IBM 360 and paying by the minute.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    FILING VIA THE WORLD WIDE WEB

    "This process contains three phases: (1) Completing a cover sheet, and (2) Attaching documents or submitting typed comments, and (3) Receiving a Confirmation." (from ECFS user manual [fcc.gov])

    Upload expert [fcc.gov], submitting an attached MS Word 6.0 and higher, MS Excel 4.0 and higher, Word Perfect 5.1 and higher, ASCII Text, and Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF), as specified in the ECFS user manual [fcc.gov]. Or (maybe?) do a quick [fcc.gov] file submission under "Broadband over the traditional telephone." (I'm not sure if this files under the proper proceeding, as it provides minimal information so you may want to use expert.)

    File using expert [fcc.gov]

    1. Proceeding: 03-45
    2. Fill in relevant information (pers info)
    3. Document type: Comment
    4. Attach document or just type in a quick comment

    Now instead of ranting here on the issue. Make your statements on the issue available to people other then techies, law types and such. Not that I'm saying law types don't come here, or techies don't understand ... err ... shut up ... right. The rest of this comment is thrown in for reference.

    Home Site ECFS (Electronic Comment Filing System)
    http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/ecfs/

    Documentation in regards to proper response filings in response to the petition [pulver.com] posted by pulvar.com":
    http://pulver.com/fwd/fccfwd.html [pulver.com]
    http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/ DA-03-439A1.pdf [fcc.gov]

    The CFRs referenced from time to time are Code of Federal Regulations [gpo.gov]. On the site referenced, you should come to see quickly there are different titles corresponding to various sectors of industry, Title 47 [gpo.gov] referencing Telecommuniation.

    USC stands for United States Code [house.gov]. You can search [house.gov] this database or download each to view structurally [house.gov].

    I have just discovered all this information out in the past 15 minutes via Google and the www.fcc.gov site and www.pulvar.com. I can't give you a cut clear definition of the difference of U.S.C. and C.F.R., however there is an about page that clearly defines this on each respective home site.

    In other words, I'll leave my post and allow the higher states of entropical discussion to follow ;)

    P.S.I'm not really a coward, just an ignorant fool who forgot his password/email. Ohhly well. That also means to imply I am not affliated with anybody pertaining to the topic of discussion.

  • by geekee (591277) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @10:42PM (#5311699)
    Slashdot has no problem with the govt. regulating MS, but when they want to regulate something slashdot users like, suddenly regulation is evil. If the govt. is allowed to regulate standard telephony, they must do the same for VoIP. Otherwise, VoIP software companies and ISPs have an unfair advantage over telephone companies. I propose deregulating telephony, rather than regulating VoIP.
    • Remember: When you're getting a free lunch, it's a FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT. When someone else is getting a free lunch, it's a LOOPHOLE. :-)

      I have a slightly different opinion on it. I think VOIP should be regulated (if at all) in the same manner as any other traffic on the internet. The internet and the phone network are different enough that trying to use one set of regulations for certain classes of traffic is doomed to failure. Argentenia has learned this the hard way; the cost of blocking VOIP and the lost revenues from ISP's are more than the revenue lost by the telephone service.

      I am a fence-sitter on the whole "universal service" thing. On some days I think it's a great idea, improving the lot of humankind and increasing the value of every computer in the way that ubiquitous fax machines increased the value of other faxes. On other days, I think it's a wrong-headed attempt to redistribute wealth in an inefficient manner to people who don't need it.

    • Why do people like you always complain about the hypocracy of slashdotters? Slashdotters do NOT all think alike.

      Every time I see an MS article, I see tons of pro-MS posts and people who think the govt should leave MS alone. In this article, there's tons of people saying VoIP *should* be regulated.

      Geez, every single post could be supporting regulation and you'd still complain that slashdotters are hypocrites because the article's author was against it.
    • If the govt. is allowed to regulate standard telephony, they must do the same for VoIP. Otherwise, VoIP software companies and ISPs have an unfair advantage over telephone companies.

      Since most ISPs end up relying on the telephone company for their data lines anyway, and considering that these same telephone companies (baby bells) have been running roughshod over local ISPs that are trying to provide DSL service, I have very little sympathy for the position of the telephone companies. Let them experience what little pain will come with VoIP (I say "what little pain" because they'll benefit from the increased internet business at the same time they're losing telephone income).

    • While I agree that this may seem hypocritical at first glance, I think that this over simplifying a bit. For instance: What if the government creates unballenced regulation? Adding more regulation to ballance things can often be a good solution when deregulation is not a possibility.
  • What defines a communications service? Normally, a service that is part of the PTSN (Public Telephone Switched Network). The FCC regulates the PTSN for the following reasons: 1. Interoperabliity: I should be able to take a phone that I bought in Massachusetts to California, plug it into a phone jack there, and have it work. I should be able to connect to any other phone hooked up to the PTSN no matter what phone company the other phone is connected too (there are literally hundreds of phone companies in the United States). 2. Minimum quality (uniformity): There are technical standards with regards to frequency response, distortion, audio level, number of ringers allowed, echo in the call, etc. etc. These are to establish a minimum quality for the PTSN. There are also rules establishing area codes and LATAS, E-911, etc. Finally, there is a requirement that voice serice operate even when the local power is off. 3. Rates: The FCC, along with the various states set local phone rates. For example, The FCC mandates "lifeline service" a cheap measured service for low income families. This is based upon the premise that having a phone is in: "The public interest, convenience and necessity". These and other things define what a phone company is. NOW....in the recent past, the FCC has waived many of these rules. For example, look at the difference in quality and reliability you can have with mobile phones. It's all over the place. This is because mobile phones are not considered part of the PTSN. Instead they kind of: "Hang off the edge" of it. The FCC lets the marketplace decide how good the call needs to be. If a particular service has lousy quality, the belief is that the public will buy another service. AND (and this is an important point) Other services are available! There is generally but one wired phone network, but there are plenty of wireless companies. Same thing with VOIP companies. What the telcos are saying is: "Hey, you require US to follow these costly rules, but RCN, AT&T Cable, Vonage and others don't have to. This is unfair. RCN, AT&T cable et al are marketing their services as a replacement of the main phone line. In my opinion they should be regulated then. Why? Simple. Their service dies when the power goes out! What if you got sick during a storm or your house caught fire and you couldn't call for help because the power was out? Vonage responds that they market their service as a 'second telephone service' rather then a primary one. However, lately they have been marketing themselves as: "The broadband phone company". If they want to follow this path, then they should be regulated too. Personally, I think it's GOOD that the FCC regulates the PTSN. Now, should free world dialup be regulated. No. Why? because it doesn't hook to the PTSN, nor is it marketed or intended as a replacement for it. It's more like a big intercom system.
  • International use? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grahamsz (150076) on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:35PM (#5312002) Homepage Journal
    The problem with regulation is that it doesn't apply internationally very well.

    Currently I have a vonage digitalvoice (which absolutely rocks btw) but I took the voice router out of the USA and plugged it into my network in scotland.

    This means that I've got a US number, yet it rings in the UK. I've got unlimited calls to the USA for $40/mo.

    In fact, vonage is sooo price competitive that at some times of day they beat my local telephone company for uk calls!

    Regulation might make this sort of thing difficult in the future and that'd be a real shame. I look forward to the day when I can have a few different VoIP providers in different geographical locations and route my calls to the one that provides the best price.

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Saturday February 15, 2003 @11:43PM (#5312045) Journal
    Someone said the telcos were efficient. They are not. I moved to CA recently and tried to get POTS (plain old telephone service). Had a phone book handed to me, but that was the end of the easiness. I couldn't find an address for them in their own phone book. On SBC's website, I went thru a 5 page form. Near the end, there were 4 numbers to choose from and a warning I might not get any of those. So I didn't write my choice down. The web site also informed me that the earliest I could be hooked up was 6 DAYS. When done, there was no feedback that they got my order.

    10 days later, no phone service, so I borrowed a phone to call them. Took about 15 minutes to get thru the menu maze and the hold time. They wanted my phone number to look me up. I was told I should've remembered the number from the web site. (Why didn't the web site say so?) I growled at them until they tried to look me up by address. Couldn't find anything. Very unhappy about the prospect of another 6 day wait, I suggested I could just sign up again. They said I shouldn't because if I was in their system, why, I'd get billed twice. Ok, I know the quality of help from support lines and such can be abysmal. Perhaps if I'd called back I would've got someone more competent.

    Back to square one. You can get a cell phone the day you walk into a store, but I don't want one. Instead, I tried to hunt down the telco's competition. There were a few other local phone providers but none of them did residences. Finally hit on VoIP. (I'd gotten cable modem set up in a mere 2 days.) Took less than 10 minutes to sign up and start using it. But, I never successfully received a call, so I cancelled that part of the service. Would be nice if friends and family could call, but I can live with the arrangement I've got and hope reception of calls is put in working order soon.

    It can be fun messing with officious people who want your phone number. So far, I haven't been refused any service.

    Officious person, pointing to line on a form: "You forgot to fill in your phone number"
    Me: "No, I didn't forget"
    Officious person: "We have to have a phone number."
    (At this point I could say "no you don't" or "why?" if I feel like playing some more, but I usually skip it because who wants to hang around in a dreary bureaucratic setting all day?)
    Me: "I don't have one"
    Officious person: "uh, well can you give us some other number like your work number?"
    Me: "Ok, 555-5555"
    Officious person: "um, no, we can't use that number. Is there some number we can reach you just in case there's some problem?"
    Yeah, right! Liars. They just want to harass me with telemarketing. About then I turn to the exit and this finally convinces the form police that they don't need a number after all.

    I suppose I could've saved time by putting down, oh, Gray Davis's phone number, which I doubt they'd recognize. It's amusing watching the expressions on their faces. First is a weary pained look because I'm "one of those". I'm making their life more difficult by refusing to give out the number I must surely have, because everyone has a phone, right? Then amazement that I actually might not have a number, just like I told them. Then it's a mix of contempt and pity because they're thinking I might be a dirt poor deadbeat who doesn't pay phone bills (maybe I'm homeless!), and finally bafflement because I don't look the part.

    • Hah! Something similar happens to me all the time to
      me. I don't have a land line, but I have a cell phone, and here in Greece the caller gets charged with the whole cost of the call - you'd be amazed how paper-pushers try to avoid these...

      Maybe that's the reason that telemarketers avoid me - I just try to keep them talking :-)
  • Double Taxation? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BitterOak (537666) on Sunday February 16, 2003 @12:27AM (#5312240)
    Most people connect to the Internet through a phone line or cable modem in the first place, both services of which are already taxed. So taxing voIP in addition would be a form of double taxation. Your modem makes a phone call to your ISP, and then you use the Net to call someone by voIP. Do both calls get taxed?

  • While the FCC is considering our petition, we all have a much more immediate problem, the National Association of Regulatory Utility
    Commissioners
    NARUC [naruc.org]
    and their 2003 Winter Meetings [naruc.org] taking place Feb 22-26.
    NARUC already has a strong anti-VOIP [pulver.com]
    resolution (word document) set to go through next Sunday.
    If this get passed it will create an unnecessary tax and crippling administrative burden on the intenet.
    This makes our much more immediate problem - the
    NARUC Telecommunication Committee [naruc.org]

    If their draft passes, it will mark a dark day for IP Communications in the United States.

    Please take a [naruc.org]
    look at the people registered for this meeting and reach out to them and
    let them know that VoIP should not be regulated in the United States.


    Your collective feedback can make a difference.

  • Gee wiz.. After about ten or twenty years of the regulation of internet voice communications,I bet we will get touchtone. Then they can start making it backwards compatible with rotary phones. Soon after that we will truly have a system of telecommunications that will be suitable for the masses.
  • The URL to file a comment on this petition is:
    http://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/cgi-bin/websql/prod/ecfs/ upload_v2.hts?ws_mode=proc_name&proc_id=03-45 [fcc.gov]

    Took me a while to find it, but maybe I'm just spacy.

  • Well considering this, I am certain it should remain unregulated. However, as soon as it leaves the internet any regulations of the mode it enters should apply. In that way, it serves the best of both worlds, in that the internet remains free, and if it is used as a telecommunications service to call standard telephones the appropriate regulations would apply.

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