TIA encouraged by VoIP legislation

April 5, 2004 - Act is designed to protect VoIP from unnecessary regulation.

The Telecommunications Industry Association is encouraged by the introduction of federal legislation aimed at protecting Voice over Internet Protocol from unnecessary and piecemeal regulation.

On April 2 U.S. Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) and House Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) each introduced similar companion versions of the Voice over IP (VoIP) Regulatory Freedom Act of 2004. The bills would establish federal jurisdiction over VoIP and would free VoIP from much of the regulation now applied to legacy telephone services. At the same time, they seek to safeguard or not disturb important national policy objectives such as universal service and law enforcement access. They also restrict state or local taxation of VoIP.

The legislation defines a VoIP application as the use of hardware, software or network equipment for real-time two-way or multi-directional voice communications over the public Internet or a private network utilizing Internet protocol. It excludes VoIP applications that both originate and terminate on the public switched telephone network.

Meanwhile, the TIA has filed comments with the California Public Utilities Commission, which has initiated an investigation into VoIP regulatory requirements. In the comments, the TIA argues that the State of California lacks authority to regulate VoIP applications, because the inherent interstate nature of such communications makes it impossible to classify them as intrastate telecommunications or telephone services. Furthermore, the comments note the efforts under way at the federal level to determine the appropriate national regulatory framework for IP-enabled applications, including VoIP.

"As a nation, we are at a critical crossroads for the future of communications," says TIA President Matthew Flanigan. "IP-enabled applications and broadband connectivity offer exciting opportunities and are poised to dominate the future of communications. The question we face in this country, however, is whether we will saddle emerging technologies with the regulatory baggage of the past or liberate them and afford them the opportunity to soar to new heights."

The TIA is based in Arlington, VA. For more information visit www.tiaonline.org.

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