FCC to mull regulating VoIP

Agencies and contractors next month will discuss whether Internet telephony should be regulated, at a forum held by the Federal Communications Commission.

The forum, scheduled for Dec. 1, was announced shortly after FCC chairman Michael Powell received a letter from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) inquiring about voice over IP technology, the method used to transmit phone calls over IP networks.

Wyden sought more information for his work to maintain a moratorium on Internet taxes.

'As the Senate moves to debate the Internet tax moratorium in the coming days, I urge caution in addressing VoIP issues,' Powell wrote in a response to Wyden. 'The FCC has been studying VoIP issues for several years, but things have greatly accelerated over the past year and, thus, so have the FCC's actions to address the complex issues that arise.'

After the forum, the agency will initiate a Notice of Public Rule Making to further gather public comment. The FCC will make decisions early next year on how best to regulate the service.

Manufacturers of VOIP hardware and software claim users can cut telephone costs and enjoy new services by piggybacking voice calls over data networks. But widespread use of the technology may spur policy-related issues, such as how to provide 911 services to IP phones, how to guarantee universal service and how to provide wiretapping abilities to law enforcement.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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