VoIP Should Remain Unregulated

By Scott Testa

(Back to article)

As a consumer of VoIP services, our company is interested in the cost savings, system integration opportunities and ease-of-use this developing technology promises. It would be a shame if it were short-circuited by rules and regulations that would hinder its effectiveness and widespread adoption.

Yet, I see a tough battle ahead as both traditional telephone service providers and taxing authorities, i.e. Congress and state legislatures, struggle to deal with the changes to today's taxed (and infinitely taxable) telephone system.

The aspects of VoIP that appeal most to us at Mindbridge and our customers are:

  • The ability to add, drop and move users quickly and easily using their own inside technical resources;
  • The ability to interface with networks using basic Ethernet connections;
  • The ability to do the work in-house without having to deal with local phone companies and the hassles this can represent; and
  • The opportunity to realize significant communications cost savings.
  • On top of these, we look forward to finding additional ways VoIP will benefit our business. And we fully expect it to become an increasing part of our business processes. Conceivably, VoIP could handle all of our voice communications needs at some point in the future.

    The only stumbling block that might get in the way would be excessive government regulations and taxation. As the major telecommunication and cable companies join start-up VoIP ventures in moving voice traffic over the Internet, the regulatory issues become critical for states that raise huge revenues by taxing traditional telephone services.

    This is why we strongly support the bill introduced by Sen. John Sununu (R-NH). The bill proposes a clear, but limited federal role to enable future growth of this technology.

    According to Sununu, "Some interests would like to impose an outdated and stifling regulatory framework on this service, rather than allow VoIP to continue to expand freely. Burdensome state and federal regulations could easily prevent VoIP from delivering on its promise of cost savings, versatility, and innovation for consumers."

    Historically, the FCC has supported an environment that promotes competition and innovation to the benefit of consumers. The FCC has not regulated the Internet or the services provided on it, for example, and has determined an entirely Internet-based VoIP service is an unregulated information service. Yet, on the same day, the FCC also began a broader study to examine what it can best do to meet its role of safeguarding the interests of consumers, vendors and law enforcement agencies.

    It will be interesting to see how the interests of consumers, vendors, government agencies, phone companies, cable companies, legislators and regulators interact to shape the future of this exciting, new technology. We hope it's in all our interests.

    Want to discuss the VoIP issues raised here? Take it over to our IT Management Forum.

    Scott Testa is the chief operating officer (COO) of Mindbridge Software the makers of the Intranet software suite, IntraSmart, which helps companies share information and knowledge that results in improved collaboration and productivity. Scott can be reached at (610) 666-5262.