The good folks at Progress & Freedom Foundation are all over the FCC VOIP proceedings. I encourage interested parties to start with Kent Lassman’s summary of the proceedings, and then scroll up for further commentary. From Kent’s conclusion:
The real issue is not over the size of the sandbox controlled by state or federal regulators. It is not even the linguistic and legal wrangling over information and telecommunications services and whether Title I or Title II regulations reign supreme. At issue, are consumers’ conveniences and choices. I agree with much of Tyler Cowen’s conclusion on this point. “Competition will become more intense, calling will continue to become cheaper,” and long-run financing will challenge network owners. Unless regulators find a public interest in choking off these consumer benefits.
Then in the subsequent post, PFF President Ray Gifford asks the extremely trenchant question: Why regulate VOIP?
First, to stop arbitrage because internet protocol voice calls currently avoid access charges that other voice calls pay; second, to ensure public safety through access to E-911 services and law enforcement access through CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act); and, third, to support universal service obligations.
Ray then goes on to analyze each of these rationales in turn, and concludes
My ultimate takeaway from the forum is that there is no rationale for regulation of VoIP by state or federal economic, administrative regulators. Given the technological “catch me if you can” problems that VoIP ultimately introduces, regulators’ attention will be better spent toward resolving the crises that VoIP will precipitate in universal service cross-subsidies.
I also recommend following the links to prepared testimony and other materials that Ray provides in his post, because they indicate the degree of dynamic vision that some decision-makers in the arena are willing to bring to bear.
Then yesterday they had a a post by Randy May on the metaphysical nature of the VOIP regulation discussion. Very interesting.