FCC To Consider New Regulations On VoIP Services


Voice-over-IP technology is about to get a full hearing before government regulators.

The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday it has scheduled a Dec. 1 hearing on regulatory issues raised by the emerging voice technology. Shortly after the forum, FCC officials said, the agency will launch a review into the migration of voice services to IP-based networks.

The VoIP push comes in response to congressional pressure to speed the deployment of IP networks that have been resisted by politically powerful incumbent carriers who have millions of dollars invested in traditional public-switched networks. Many carriers view cheap IP-based voices services as a major threat to their businesses.

In a Nov. 5 letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and a proponent of VoIP technology, FCC Chairman Michael Powell said the agency has been studying VoIP issues for several years. Added Powell, "But things have greatly accelerated over the past year and, thus, so have the FCC's actions to address the complex issues that arise."

Powell said the FCC is "currently considering several petitions involving different flavors of VoIP."

Companies like Cisco Systems and Avaya Inc. have been promoting VoIP services for several years, and government agencies seeking to kick start the struggling U.S. telecommunications industry have seized on VoIP services as the next big thing.

While industry watchers are split on the likelihood that VoIP can gain ground on the installed telecom base, chip industry analysts have said it could soon help propel sales of components like DSPs.

The technology has been slow to catch on in the United States. One reason is that large businesses have been reluctant to rip out their existing telecom networks and replace them with a largely untested IP-based services that experts agree offers more functionality. Incumbent carriers seeking to protect their installed base have also resisted VoIP.

Proponents of the technology said VoIP should be deployed as if the public-switched network never existed. That way, innovative technology won't be transferred to an existing network, according to Jeff Pulver, president and chief executive of pulver.com, which promotes IP-based voice services.

"There is new growth on the horizon," Pulver told an earlier Commerce Department forum on VoIP services.

This story courtesy of TechWeb.