VoIP will dominate telecom, former FCCer says

Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, services will dominate the telecommunications industry and alter telecom policy in the United States over the next few years, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday.

Richard Wiley, who served as the regulatory agency's chairman from 1970-77, addressed members of the federal sector about the future of telecom policy and regulation, at an event hosted by Denver-based communications firm Qwest Communications International Inc.

Wiley is managing partner and head of the communications practice at Washington law firm Wiley Rein & Fielding LLP. Qwest is one of the firm's clients.

VoIP technology allows voice messages to be transmitted over Internet lines. It is independent of any platform and can be provided over any type of broadband applications, Wiley said. Multiple providers will take advantage of the broadband platforms to deliver VoIP to their customers, he said.

What's expected to be the next big technology wave in communications has prompted lawmakers and FCC to consider establishing federal regulations for VoIP service. The technology is used to facilitate delivery of some applications, such as online gaming and instant messaging.

Wiley said that VoIP will prompt three regulatory-related issues:

  • It will call into question whether firms can obtain VoIP services from their competitors, and therefore prompt a reevaluation of telecom rate regulations over the next five years.


  • It raises the question as to whether the technology will be regulated and by whom: either the federal government, which has traditionally regulated long-distance calling services or individual states, which oversee local calls.


  • It will impel Congress to consider new national telecom legislation.


The country's telecom law that went into effect in 1996 doesn't address new technologies, such as VoIP, that have been developed since.

In February, the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking for IP-enabled services, including VoIP to address the technology's regulatory classification and obligations under different regulatory programs, according to an article Wiley cowrote. The agency is now examining requests for clarification of the obligations of VoIP providers.

VoIP services will likely have a bearing on wireless providers whose networks converge with or use the IP network for either local or long-distance calling as well as their customers who may use VoIP along with other data services, the article said.

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