Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Your Rights Online Technology

Vonage Fights Minnesota's Attempts To Regulate VoIP 200

Posted by timothy
from the buggy-whip-makers-tense dept.
rmccoy writes "Vonage said Thursday it intends to fight the first-ever decision by a U.S. state to regulate companies that provide Internet-based phone services. Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission unanimously decided two weeks ago that the New Jersey-based voice over IP (VoIP) provider is subject to the rules and regulations that cover traditional phone companies."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Vonage Fights Minnesota's Attempts To Regulate VoIP

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:03PM (#6774210)
    Seeing how they're dealing with interstate communication.
  • Isn't it awesome (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When regulations there to protect the consumer do nothing at all to stop the one single incumbent provider but effectively eviscerate anyone attempting to provide the consumers choice or innovation?

    I hate american "capitalism". (If for some reason you want to call it that)
    • I would say this is a classic case of Corporate Communism, where the government protects Big Business at the expense of Small Business and the Consumer Class.

      I prefer to think of the the economic policies of the American Government (which Americans in our not so great wisdom have elected) as Corporate Communism, for lack of a better terminology. I don't think when government does so much to protect Big Business at the expense of all other of societies economic entiites, that capitalism really applies t
  • Fair enough, no? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mindstrm (20013) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:05PM (#6774223)
    I mean, this isn't about just "voice over internet".... it's about a phone service that happens to use the net.

    So... either they should have to follow regulations like any other phone company..... OR... the phone companies should be released from their regulatory obligations, at least with respect to the voip providers, so they can operate on equal footing.
    • by The Uninformed (107798) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:13PM (#6774254)
      Not really, the big users of VoIP are buisnesses with T1/T3 lines and individuals with cable/DSL who make long distance calls.
      The state shouldn't be regulating this.
      • Your comment doesnt make sense. T1 lines are regulated by the gov(at least the voice part of them is i should say) and cable is regulated. Even so that doesnt have anything to do with deciding if they are regulated. Regulation will make it better for consumers by standardizing equipment and standards.
        • Hmm... after reading deeper it looks like Vonage is advertising it as a replacement for local calls as well. And they're advertising it as a telephone service.
          So I was wrong, the state isn't off base here. Vonage is just using that fact that it's not analog to avoid regulations. (and some 911 fees)
      • I don't know. Looking at the ridiculous bills for land- and cell-phones I've been getting lately, it seems that the government is picking the consumer pocket at all levels.
        I'd estimate that the overall government take in the US is ~="A LOT".
        Gray Davis's hair would only get greyer if California's revenue due to long distance charges vanished in an abstract puff of packets.
      • I'v got teamspeak 2. As far as Illinois is conserned, they can kill my ass.
    • by Arker (91948)

      Regulation has sure done a lot of good for the regular phone companies eh?

      VoIP is a chance to get around the stifling regulations that have turned telephone service into a form of corporate welfare for campaign contributors, and to create a market that will serve the consumer again.

      Of course the regulators are going to try and screw it up.

    • by FreeUser (11483) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:31PM (#6774319)
      I mean, this isn't about just "voice over internet".... it's about a phone service that happens to use the net.

      So... either they should have to follow regulations like any other phone company..... OR... the phone companies should be released from their regulatory obligations, at least with respect to the voip providers, so they can operate on equal footing.


      You ignore a fundamental difference. Local telcos own a monopoly over the local copper cable running to people's homes. As a monopoly they must be regulated, nationalized into a public works, or we are left with a monopoly market running amock (remember, monopoly markets are the least effecient ... even more ineffecient than government and arguably more ineffecient than communism itself).

      There is a huge difference between a company that essentially offers a software (or firmware) service over the internet that happens to transmit and receive electrically encoded voice data, and one which owns the local DSLAMS, the local copper running into your home, and can leverage that local infrastructure monopoly in an anticompetative manner if they are not regulated.

      The idea that the regulations designed to hold a local telco monopoly in check should apply to a competely unrelated business that provides what is essentially a software service via an entirely different infrastructure (one that entails no monopoly, at that) is ludricous.

      One hopes the law is written such that (a) this is a federal, not a state matter and (b) such that telco's are targeted, and broader software services are not.

      Otherwise you'll see AIM, MSN Messenger, Jabber, and other services targeted the moment they can provide audio and video conferencing, and seamless communication with old POTS phones.

      And that would really chill innovation, as much as any Microsoft monopoly could ever dream of.
    • No, not fair enough (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Spy Hunter (317220) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:34PM (#6774335) Journal
      The phone company regulations have been written over the years to apply very specifically to companies that provide a switched copper wiring network densely covering a large geographical area, and now they want to apply them to companies that provide voice service over the Internet, and this is fair?!?

      It is rediculous to assume that because the service VoIP companies provide to consumers is similar to the service phone companies provide to consumers, the same regulations will work to govern them. In fact, why should VoIP be subject to regulation at all? The only reason I can think of is: if it is not regulated, it has the potential to destroy the market for traditional switched land-line service. But the question we should be asking is, is that a bad thing? Shouldn't we be moving toward a model where phone companies transform into bandwidth providers and voice communication service is provided over the same connection as everything else?

      • ...Shouldn't we be moving toward a model where phone companies transform into bandwidth providers and voice communication service is provided over the same connection as everything else?...

        That is what John Dvorak thinks should happen.. I would think it would relieve the phone companies of a lot of headaches...see this PCMag article [pcmag.com] for his take on this matter...

      • is let them be on equal footing. I'm not suggesting de-regulating the phone company.. just those aspects that compete directly with vonage offering voip service.

        I'm not suggesting regulating vonage at all.. I'm suggesting that on some level what vonage is offering is the same as what the telco is offering, and therefore, they should fall under the same regulation with regards to that particular service.. and that very well may mean no regulation.. ie: let the traditional telco be flexible with it's local o
        • Re:All I am saying (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Spy Hunter (317220) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @04:25PM (#6774561) Journal
          I'm suggesting that on some level what vonage is offering is the same as what the telco is offering

          I think the problem is that the phone companies are actually offering two things: the physical network infrastructure, and phone service. The regulations for both are intertwined since they have historically been equivalent, but now one can be offered without the other. Minnesota is trying to apply their combined regulations to a company that is only offering the phone service, and that is just dumb. So we agree that Minnesota's decision is dumb. What is really needed is for separate regulations to apply for phone service and network providers. Traditional phone companies should be subject to both, and Vonage should be subject only to the phone service ones. Also, we agree that existing phone service regulations are probably impractical in a world where phone service is provided over the Internet and they probably need changing (perhaps to the point of abolishing them entirely).

          • I think the general consensus is that "service" needs to be separated from "carrier". Regulation for the purpose of limiting or encouraging competition should continue to apply to the carriers but not the service providers, much like ISPs aren't regulated but the telephone companies are. However, I don't think anyone would argue that there should be something in writing to guarantee a minimum level of service from each type of provider. In the information age, communication is critical. Signals need to
    • Re:Fair enough, no? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @04:07PM (#6774462)
      I mean, this isn't about just "voice over internet".... it's about a phone service that happens to use the net.

      Just the opposite. It's about data, and it's none of the state's business what my data is or what protocol I wrap it in. If they can regulate VoIP data then they could also regulate you capturing a wave file of your voice and sending it by FTP or as e-mail to a friend. And if they can do that then they might as well stick their fingers into everything you send or even everything you do with your computer.

      That's John Ashcroft and Homeland Security and Echelon's job, to snoop into every single corner of your life, not the state government's.

      • Just the opposite. It's about data, and it's none of the state's business what my data is or what protocol I wrap it in.

        Just as with traditional telcos, the state should have a right to ensure that your VoIP provider has a reliable network for connecting you to 911. Either that, or the service should not be allowed to be advertised as a direct competitor to your traditional local telco. Actually, it should have to advertise in big bold letters "911 service not guaranteed. Use at your own risk."

        If no

        • I just signed up with vonage, and for what its worth, it does go to moderate-to-great lengths to make sure you understand the 911 issues with regards to it's service and what you have to do to get it working.
      • It's about data, and it's none of the state's business what my data is or what protocol I wrap it in.

        I agree with you on that point. However, in order for vonage to work, they have to interface to the public telephone network. At that point, IMHO, they become a phone company like all the others and subject to the same conditions (both in terms of privilages and in terms of regulations) faced by the traditional phone companies with whom they compete.
    • The internet is a medium of communication much like any other except for it's rather unique position to communicate in MANY ways.

      The federal government shouldn't get involved in this. If they do, they better regulate IM, email, and other comms methods.

      Regulation to VoIP is foolish... they'd better start with MSN and AOL's IM clients then before attacking someone else.
  • This seems fair (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Electrum (94638) <david@acz.org> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:06PM (#6774229) Homepage
    This seems fair. They are providing phone service that connects with the regular phone network, so why shouldn't they be treated like a traditional phone company?
    • Do they regulate in-house phone services that require you to "dial out"?

      They should not regulate VoIP anymore than they regulate in-house phone systems. This is rediculous and an insane attempt for governments to squeeze more money out of our citizens (YES CITIZENS!!) in ANY economy, but especially ours.

      We have the internet that should be left alone, and as it has been for years.

      This is pathetic.
  • Not quite the same (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cperciva (102828) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:11PM (#6774244) Homepage
    While VoIP (or at least, VoIP-connected-to-the-standard-telco-system) is pretty much the same as normal phone service, trying to apply exactly the same regulations isn't going to work.

    For example, phone companies are supposed to track where phone calls originate (for 911 dispatchers, for example). That's not going to be possible with VoIP.

    There should certainly be some sort of regulations, but simply saying "it's phone service, the same rules apply" is dumb.
    • by phunhippy (86447) *
      For example, phone companies are supposed to track where phone calls originate (for 911 dispatchers, for example). That's not going to be possible with VoIP.

      you sir are wrong.. In fact Vonage offers a 911 service when you sign up these days.

      This will probably happen in more states as well they are offering home service. Eventually long-haul carriers like ITXC & IBAS will have to face these problems as well.
      • by an_mo (175299)
        did you even read the parent post? HE's saying that they can trace origination, not that they can't offer 911 service
        • by rusty0101 (565565) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:26PM (#6774303) Homepage Journal
          Technically the hard wired phone companies can't trace a call origination either. If you go to a line bridge (pedestal or arial) and find dial tone, then patch that to your own pair of wires into your house, there is no way for the phone company to determine where a phone call originating on that line actually came from.

          Note that this is tampering with phone company equipment which I believe is considered a felony, but that doesn't change the fact that unless a phone company rep goes to that bridge and finds the wires attached, they don't know where the call came from.

          Additionally the dial tone that that line carries may be on bridge tap for a line that is not even in the neighborhood you live on. So knowing that the call originated on phone line 218-555-1111 does not tell you that the call originated at the billing address for that line. It tells you that it probably came from that address. Fortunately we do not have that many people stealing phone service.

          The way that 911 works, regardless of whether it is provided by a VoIP provider or the phone company, is that the phone number and service address are forwarded to the 911 operator by the appropriate service provider.

          -Rusty

          p.s. Yes I have worked for the phone company, though I do not do so now. I also happen to use Vonage and live in the state of Minnesota, so I very possibly will be affected.
    • As I noted further down the response thread, the way that the local phone company provides the call origination information for 911 is to provide the service location for the phone number in question. (Land-line service only. Cell service provides approximate or estimated location by tower signal strength when possible)

      Someone stealing service by tapping into your phone line off some bridge tap elsewhere in your telco provider area, who then dials 911 will be reported as your address, even though he or she
    • "For example, phone companies are supposed to track where phone calls originate (for 911 dispatchers, for example). That's not going to be possible with VoIP."

      I don't follow your logic here. Even if that's true today (though another poster disputed that), it's not like the technology isn't there.
  • Sucks... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Superfreaker (581067) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:12PM (#6774248) Homepage Journal
    I use vonage as a replacement for my house line. I added a second vonage number for faxing and it works perfectly (except during the blackout).

    I have a feeling that many of the things that make this service cool could be affected by this.
    Like:
    - Being able to have a number in any area code regardless of where you live
    - Being able to plug your phone into any broadband line anywhere and have the same number you have at home.

    Those are key and I can see them being screwed by this type of regulation.

    • It's the standard thing whenever big telco gets interested in a technology, they move in, release a version of the tech that's been "user-friendlied" (read: less of the cool features) and then after awhile, nobody misses those cool features because the guys who had them went under.
    • I added a second vonage number for faxing and it works perfectly (except during the blackout).

      This is precisely why treating a VOIP line like a phone line won't work. Telephones are on their own independent circuit and so have advantages for emergencies. VOIP is no more regulatable for telecommunications than SPAM is.

      Some people just don't have a clue.

      -Ben
  • I hope they win. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by H0NGK0NGPH00EY (210370) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:12PM (#6774252) Homepage
    I'm a satisfied Vonage customer, and I have to say that I really enjoy having a "phone bill" that is completely straight forward. I'm on the $25.99/month plan, and our monthly bill contains less than $1 in taxes. LESS THAN A FREAKING DOLLAR. How cool is that?

    If the government starts getting their fingers in this business that is doing just fine competitively, you can bet that I'll start to see loads of fees and taxes being added onto my bill, turning my $27.00 monthly bill into something more like $40.00. And for what benefits? None.

    Go Vonage.

    Shameless refer-a-friend link to Vonage [vonage.com]
    • by number11 (129686) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @04:05PM (#6774456)
      If the government starts getting their fingers in this business that is doing just fine competitively, you can bet that I'll start to see loads of fees and taxes being added onto my bill, turning my $27.00 monthly bill into something more like $40.00. And for what benefits? None.

      Actually, there are benefits, at least for some of it. We need to pay somehow for 911 service, service for schools, libraries, hospitals, the deaf. (I won't attempt to defend the massive subsidies for service to people who choose to live in the boondocks, including the entire population of the State of Alaska, or the replacement profits to compensate local telcos for the loss of the LD gravy.) The problem is, those things should just be paid for out of general revenues (income taxes, etc.). But politicians who pander to the "get rid of taxes" yahoos look for ways to hide the taxes somewhere else, and this is what we get. (No disrespect for Yahoo!, Inc. intended, but they knew the word meant "boorish, crass, or stupid person" when they adopted it as their corporate name.)
      • by petermcanulty (140720) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:10PM (#6775059)
        Just to point out that most people with phone-service in "the boondocks" are rural, and most of those people are involved with providing the rest of us leeches with our food. If they all move away from "the boondocks", we starve.

        Not good.

        peter
        • Re:I hope they win. (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
          Not really. The majority of our anti-starvation supplies are provided by freaking-huge-genetic-pharmacological-industrial-c omplex companies. Ma, Pa and John-Boy are mostly boutique farmers and their disappearance probably wouldn't be noticed by 98% of the population.
          • Re:I hope they win. (Score:2, Interesting)

            by beakburke (550627)
            "The majority of our anti-starvation supplies are provided by freaking-huge-genetic-pharmacological-industrial- c omplex companies."

            And where do you thing the giant ag processing companies get the actual crops from? Dispite the dramatic increase in farm size, and the decline in the number of farmers (as more technology is used to farm larger acerages with fewer farmers) Most farms even most of the "corporate farms" are family owned small businesses. Many states have "anti-corporate" farm laws that prohi

        • Just to point out that most people with phone-service in "the boondocks" are rural, and most of those people are involved with providing the rest of us leeches with our food. If they all move away from "the boondocks", we starve.

          So you're saying that, because they grow our food, they deserve subsidized phone service? You gotta be fucking kidding.

      • You already pay those taxes on the medium you are using to provide VoIP like the existing taxes on your Cable system and DSL line.

        The POTS line is dying. The amount of time it takes depends on the how much of your money and length of time the government wants to put into the entrenched big guys to keep them going (like this law). The rules and regulations will get much worse for non last mile guys before it gets better.
    • No one wants to pay more taxes, self included. But if you don't want to pay the same taxes as with a traditional telco, traditional telcos shouldn't have to meet all the federal and state requirements that necessitate those taxes.

      Are you willing to go without 911 and other services those taxes provide (without picking and choosing to suit only your desires)?

    • I can't agree more. Actually, the land line at the house is the cheapest offered by Qwest at 9.95 a month, and yet my first bill was $130. Next bill was $30.00. They sell you the basic line and then tack on fees and service charges for everything they can get away with. IIRC, the phone company gets to keep some of the taxes (maybe it was the FCC charges) listed on your bill.

      As SOON as vonage opens up in my area code (can't see giving my friends a LD number to call) I'm there.

      I dont' mind paying reason
  • Coming soon (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If your website contains animated gifs, you are required to get a license to broadcast television.
  • Bass Ackwards? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lambadomy (160559) <lambadomy&diediedie,com> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:19PM (#6774277)
    Governments (pretty much all of them) seem to be completely out of the loop and out of control when it comes to technology. Good decisions sometimes get made, but too often it seems they're just throwing darts at a dartboard, completely missing it and assuming that means Ban it or Tax it or Regulate it. And even if you like the idea of regulation for whatever it is, they always try to apply old rules to new things.

    In this case, they're trying to treat VoIP as...a regular telephone. Charging them for the 911 setup? What? You want them to be a telecom and pay nebulous telecom fees, ok...why do these fees even exist? By the day I am feeling more and more lost in my own country. Or maybe it's just the world, no one seems to do it significantly better. on any kind of a regular basis.

    This nation likes to call itself capitalist, but to me it just looks like a huge pile or regulation, largely designed to create monopolys but not really regulate them - combined with a ton of subsidies, kickbacks, whatever to already large buisiness interests that are also exceedingly anti-capitalist.

    Ok to uh, keep on topic, this is ridiculous. VoIP is not the telephone. And why is this Minnesotas decision to make, shouldn't this be at a federal level? Seems like telephony has a pretty large interstate component.
    • by mindstrm (20013) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:47PM (#6774378)
      VoIP doens't mean "Any voice service on the internet". VoIP is a specific set of protocols for providing integration with the telephone system via IP.

      What Vonage offers is a box that you plug a telephone into, get a real telephone number, and make real telephone calls to and from. It is no more or less a telephone than the telephone you use in your house hooked up to your phone company.. the only difference is the backhaul.

      So.. rather than saying "Should vonage be regulated"... the question should be "What is different about Vonage that they should not be bound by the regulation the phone company is? Could the phone company start giving you a cisco VOIP box, a DSL line, and thereby avoid regulation? You bet they can't, cause they are the phone company.. why should Vonage be able to offer something the phone company cannot legally offer?

      It's minnesota's decision to make because Vonage is offering phone service to Minnesotans.
      • Vonage isn't really a phone company.

        They can't be. Look - they don't charge any extra for the goodies (like caller id, etc) that come with the line, and the bill doesn't have 150% of the advertised rate for you phone in taxes and misc fees hidden in with the taxes. They say $25.99 you get a bill for something pretty close to $25.99 - thus proving that they have NO relation to a phone company. Were they to be a phone company they would give you the price of $9.95/MO and send you a bill for $135.
      • So.. rather than saying "Should vonage be regulated"... the question should be "What is different about Vonage that they should not be bound by the regulation the phone company is? Could the phone company start giving you a cisco VOIP box, a DSL line, and thereby avoid regulation?

        Because the phone company, at least the local one here, is a monopoly. They OWN the right of way to my house. They have such a thing as right of way because, historically, when the phone companies first started up, there we

  • Double Dipping taxes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Big Ryan (11871) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:22PM (#6774290) Journal
    If you connect to the net via the phone company (DSL or modem), you are already paying these taxes. Vonage and other VOIP companies are simply providing a service over existing telecommunications infrastructure. If they tax VOIP, you will end up paying the tax twice.
    • You already pay the tax twice if you use any 1010 xxx codes. This is what's damned annoying.

      There was a time that these taxes applied once to the phone line. I noticed one day the bill went up a fuck of alot. AT&T was charging to put their bill on my phone bill, as well as the same taxes were being billed on both the local telco segment of the bill, as well as the AT&T long distance. On top of that, the same taxes apeared for each 1010xxx number, a series of 3 I used at the time. Needless to s
      • You already pay the tax twice ~.

        That is the crux of the matter. States are going after this because they see easy money. With the decline of land-lines, they are possibly losing some tax revinue (consider that when you travel, do you pay taxes where you are physically located?).

        I have a basic land line, no frills, no caller ID, no nothing, for which I pay $11 base rate and $16 in taxes and fees. I imagine that it is only a matter of time before cell phone taxes and fees achieve the same proportion to bas

        • That is the crux of the matter

          Yes, I happen to agree with you 100%. If they want to tax the line, then they should tax the landline. But they shouldn't apply the same tax for your landline as for your long distance service.

          They should just pick one end and tax it. Either tax the physical line whether it be landline or broadband, or just tax the carrier. One or the other. I tend to prefer the physical line personaly as that would resolve the issue of being double taxed for just using a diffrent 1010x
    • Let's say you just use DSL. You have one line so you pay the taxes once.

      Now imagine you have DSL and Vonage. Now you have two lines, so you pay the taxes twice. Makes sense to me.

      If you have DSL but don't use the voice line, then maybe you are a sucker and should switch to cable.
    • I am already double taxed. This would be triple taxing. I pay a Universal Service fee to both Verizon (my local phone company) and SpeakEasy (my ISP).
  • by mpthompson (457482) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:28PM (#6774311)
    From the Vonage web site "Vonage is proud to offer 911 dialing. When you dial 911, your call is routed from the Vonage Digital Voice network to your local emergency service dispatcher." [vonage-promotion.com]

    In instances where a company is offering Internet based services that both compete and replace traditional services, it makes sense that such a service would be subject to the same regulatory control as the competition. In this specific case, if you replace your residential phone service with Vonage VoIP service, it seems both reasonable and a matter of public safety that a call made to 911 from your residential phone connect you to local emergency services. As a valuable community service, 911 is funded by fees charged to local phone companies. It seems unreasonable for Vonage to escape paying 911 and related fees that it's regulated competitors can't avoid paying.

    Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission does not seem to be overreaching in this case.

    Where things get tricky are services that don't outright replace residential or business phone services, but offer a quasi-phone service such as the voice services now being offered as part of some instant message services. At what point do these unregulated services cross the line where they become subject to local public utility commission regulations.
    • the worst HAS to be the idea that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, you have to regulate and tax it like a duck. VoIP is totally different from ordinary phone service in almost every way that is relevant to taxation and regulation.

      Consider WHY we invented public utility commissions for phone, electric, gas, etc, but not for (say) supermarkets: because there are NATURAL MONOPOLIES in the utility business, making it unrealistic to allow multiple providers in a single area
      • Contrast that to the services provided by the ISP who resells the lines to you: their routers are on backup power (go Focal!), and they fix broken stuff in minutes or hours, not days or weeks.

        Uhh...never had Comcast (actually it was AT&T) cable internet service, have you? Our internet problem took 10 days to fix, and they didn't even acknowledge it was fixed. It just started working. Oh, and Comcast has to fix your digital phone service very quickly if you have a problem, just like the telco.

        May

    • In instances where a company is offering Internet based services that both compete and replace traditional services, it makes sense that such a service would be subject to the same regulatory control as the competition.

      In a word, Bullshit. Email coupled with a scanner and a printer can replace the USPS for many run of the mill mailings. That doesn't mean that the USPS should have the ability to regulate. (Yes HR 602P is a hoax, but you are echoing the thinking that could one day make it reality)

      At what
      • neither Arkansas nor Texas could bring me up on obscenity charges because I'm safely in another state. The fact that people from Arkansas and Texas may see this post doesn't make a difference.

        Can't you be extradiated?

        Furthermore, I don't think that if I make a threat against the President that I will be able to escape charges just because I was in a different state.

        -Brent
        • Furthermore, I don't think that if I make a threat against the President that I will be able to escape charges just because I was in a different state.

          A threat is a different matter, that is a federal crime. It doesn't matter which state you're in. Only a fool would threaten the President of the country, while still in the country.

          LK
          • A threat is a different matter, that is a federal crime.

            Duh! You didn't specify that you were talking about commiting a state crime, but not being caught in that state. I guess I'm still not convinced that if I rob a gas station, and flee across the border, that no charges will be able to be pressed against me.

            Or that I can slander someone as much as I want as long as I am not in their state. There are probably rules that define where a charge can be filed against be, but not immunity.

            -Brent

      • In a word, Bullshit. Email coupled with a scanner and a printer can replace the USPS for many run of the mill mailings. That doesn't mean that the USPS should have the ability to regulate.

        Bullshit yourself. Bad analogy. When I call 911 on my Vonage phone (the one advertised to replace my analog line), I should expect the same service. If I'm going to get the same service, I should have to pay for it just as I did with the local telco. In this case it could literally be a life-and-death situation.

        Th

        • Bullshit yourself. Bad analogy. When I call 911 on my Vonage phone (the one advertised to replace my analog line), I should expect the same service. If I'm going to get the same service, I should have to pay for it just as I did with the local telco. In this case it could literally be a life-and-death situation.

          It doesn't matter. If you can dial 911, 411, 611, or 011, it doesn't change the fact that a state has no right to regulate something that does not act within its borders. If they are allowed to do
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:30PM (#6774873) Journal
      Where things get tricky are services that don't outright replace residential or business phone services, but offer a quasi-phone service such as the voice services now being offered as part of some instant message services. At what point do these unregulated services cross the line where they become subject to local public utility commission regulations?

      How about the point where they interconnect and exchange calls with the POTS network?

      Talk only to other net phones, you're a net application. Interconnect net calls with POTS calls as a service to your customers and you're a phone company.

      And when I say "as a service to your customers" I'm making a distinction:

      If you're selling connectivity to the POTS network to general customers, suitable for replacing local phone service, you're a telco - whether you're doing it over copper, fiber, "cellphone" packet, 802.*, infrared, wires-through-wormholes, or what-have-you.

      If you're selling a PBX replacement, hooking up a customer to his own lines for which he's ALREADY paying off a telco and the telco's tax man, you're an equipment/software vendor.

    • Better yet let's tax everything. Just raise taxes like 20%. Will that cover your costs? Or should we raise them more?

      The current infrastructure was designed poorly and is being overtaxed. Which is probably why people are looking for ways to replace it. Taxing them will only slow down progress. And they will also be a target for replacement. You can't tax everything. But I guess you can try.
  • I wonder... (Score:1, Troll)

    by HBI (604924)
    I wonder if the problem is cured if Vonage just stops offering service in Minnesota.

    In a different field, auto insurance, most providers hate doing business in NJ because the state sucks - every 3 years the government gets a bug up its ass and changes the rules around because we have the highest (or near the highest) auto insurance rates in the country. So companies like State Farm, GEICO, Firemans Fund, etc have pulled out of New Jersey and do not offer policies here.

    Sounds like a similar case brewing u
  • Now, Vonnage and Packet8 will start to suck as much as the phone companies current regulated by the states. Qwest is sucktastic, and you complain to the state and they basically tell you there is nothing they can do...but, hey, they are regulating!
  • Taxing packets (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wytcld (179112) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:32PM (#6774326) Homepage
    Ending up with a situation where some packets sent over IP are taxed - specifically in this case a subset of packets containing vocal audio - can only lead to a situation where every single packet needs to be audited simply in order to track and log the taxable ones. That's horrendous enough - and so expensive to implement that even aside from the privacy implications it would cost much more than any revenues raised.

    But consider, what's the difference between a packet of "telephone" voice and a packet of "Internet radio" voice? What's the difference between an Internet radio monolog and a conference call in which one party is doing all the talking? If two people listen live to each others' Internet radio shows, and converse thereby, is it telephony for purposes of taxation? If so, then when is Net radio not a phone call?

    The only sane conclusion is: Vocal conversation over the Net may look like a phone call, but it's really something else. It may also look like radio, but it's really something else. Making Internet "phone" companies license themselves as real phone companies do makes no more sense than requiring a broadcast license of Net radio stations.
    • This is not about packets. It's about a service that integrates with the standard, regulated telco network.

      This is not about voice over the internet, it's about a telephone service.. the fact that it uses the internet as a transport is incidental.
      If they offfered the same service via some kind of newfangled radio or satellite service, they would be subject to the same argument.
    • If I use a regular phone, dial a regular phone number, and talk to someone who is also using a real phone.. is it still not a phone call?

      How do you figure vonage's local phone service is different than a normal phone service? this isn't about ip to ip voice chat.. it's about real phone service.

      Internet radio is not radio.. it's a differnet thing, agreed...
      but Vonage's VOIP service is real, honest-to-god phone service. You get a real phone number, use a real telephone, and can make and receive real phone c
  • 911 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hedley (8715) <hedley@pacbell.net> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @03:36PM (#6774339) Journal
    Vonage mentions they are The Broadband Phone Company on their web page. If you are a phone company then you have to pay into the 911 kitty for that state. If the local phone companies pay for it, you better believe they will hit up those that don't. Vonage offers a 911 that calls the local police dept. Of course you don't get the address and it bypasses the states paid for official 911 service.

    Competitors like Packet8 don't offer 911 service and stay away from calling themselves a phone company.

    Clearly tho the agenda of the PUC's in PA and MN is to squash VoIP since it is a real threat. Kill it now before it gets to be a monster they cannot regulate and kill.

    Hedley
    • It's not the PUC's agenda really, but the incumbent telcos that will lose revenue. All gubmint agencies these days are in bed with 'big bizness', and 'big bizness' can't stand a bit of competition. Nothing new here.
    • Re:911 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jaredmauch (633928)
      Speaking as a vonage user who does not have 911 activiated (I use vonage as a second telephone line), I think that users that activate their 911 service should have to pay to the state/local authorities the necessary monies. The issue I see here as it relates to Vonage and 911 is quite complex. I can take my ata-186 and plug it in here at home, or with me anyplace else I go. This obviously poses a challenge for providing emergency services, but I remember the days (albeit not that long ago) where 911 did
  • Traditional telephone service has strict privacy regulations and lots of other (strange) rules such as the prohibition of the use of encryption devices. Nobody can legally listen to a plain old telephone service (POTS) call without a court order.

    Voice Over IP (VoIP) uses the Internet as the common carrier. There are no such privacy rules on the internet. Anyone can legally monitor anyone's Internet traffic (including VoIP phone calls).

    If MN wants to claim that VoIP service should be similarly regulated
    • That is not entirely right. at least, not in the US (not sure what the rules are elsewhere). Packetsniffing traffic you are not entitled to legally monitor is a violation of federal wiretap laws (and therefore a federal felony).

      Now, it is true that companies can monitor traffic that passes over a network they own (your ISP can sniff your traffic if you're using them), specifically if they are doing it for standard business reasons (like tracking abuse, troubleshooting network problems, IDS', etc)...but th
    • There is no law against the use of encryption devices for telephone calls. That said, the federal government has "encouraged" vendors of voice encryption hardware to restrict sales to the unwashed masses.
  • Vonage customers have to agree not to say or listen to anything offensive! No dirty jokes, racist comments, etc. The contract says [politechbot.com]:

    You agree to use the Service and Device only for lawful purposes. This means that you agree not to use them for transmitting or receiving any illegal, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, obscene, sexually explicit, profane, racially or ethnically disparaging remarks or otherwise objectionable material of any kind, including but not limited to any material tha

    • Vonage customers have to agree not to say or listen to anything offensive!

      Actually, they're just setting up a contractual obligation not to use their service for obscene phone calls or planning crimes. That's so they are covered against suits if their customers misbehave.

      Why did they do this? Because they believe they AREN'T a phone company (common carrier), and that they thus wouldn't be protected by the laws that keep a phone company from being sued for what its customers send over its wires.
  • It's about time things like this started to happen.

    First, I don't think outbound only service, often called PC to phone, should arbitrarily be considered phone service and regulated.

    Second, I don't think PC to PC service should be touched at all.

    However, from what I've seen of VonAge, they ARE a telephone company and should be treated exactly the same as a telephone company.

    Consider, VonAge offers: 911 dialing, Keep your phone number (local number portability), in-coming and out-going calls, 3 way calli
    • What makes VonAge different from any other phone company service a local service area? They happen to use the Internet as the "last-mile" connection instead of leased or owned copper.

      Last mile? The whole thing is IP data based. If anything it IS over the copper for the last mile if the recipient does not have VoIP themselves. The only thing this has in common with a telco provider and also the only thing different from from regular data transfer on a computer is you sit on your couch and use it.

      What y
  • It's as simple as that. Why the heck should I pay taxes TWICE on the same thing?
  • I've had my land line replaced with a cellular phone now for quite some time. My bill is really straight foreward, the same number follows me wherever I go, I don't pay any long distance charges, and 911 maps to my local dispatch.

    I don't know exactly how the government treats cellular providers but it seems to me that everything about the Vonage VoIP phones that is exciting all my colleagues applies to my cellular service. And because I live in Minnesota I'm really liking the stability of my cellular ser
  • Companies like Vonage really are only here for a transitional period: they give you a way to connect VoIP service to the regular phone network. That's not a long-term business model.

    But for Internet-to-Internet calls, any attempt at regulation would be futile. In fact, there doesn't even have to be any kind of business involved in the middle.

    States can, of course, tax IP traffic or Internet access, but regulations that try to distinguish between different uses of that traffic would be very hard and cost
  • by segment (695309) <sil@politri x . org> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @04:02PM (#6774445) Homepage Journal

    It may have been said here or not, sometimes I don't feel like sorting through the FP's and other trollings.

    Wouldn't this be a case of double dipping by the telco's being that they're charging you for bandwidth usage, along with an added cost to using VoIP?

    Another thing I would like to point out, is telco's have deep ass pockets, as most of us know. Don't be fooled by their rants on not having enough money for yadda yadda, or being monopolized because it's political propaganda. Telco's who need laws passed often spend enormous amounts of money lobbying politicians to get them to pass these measures. It's definitely about time people got together and lobbied against this type of bs. Is everyone going to wait until the last second until everything is being regulated under some 3rd world like rules that make no sense.

  • Vonage probably didn't contribute enough to the election campaigns of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Attorney General Mike Hatch, like a traditional phone company should. http://news.mpr.org/features/2003/08/13_khoom_hatc hgop/

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.

Working...