According to recent reports in Bloomberg BNA, the Federal Communications Commission is looking to modify regulatory methods for Voice over Internet Protocol phone service. The FCC regulates standard communications services, including traditional wireline phone networks, but until recently, the FCC did not regulate VoIP because of previous rulings that determined that the Internet could not be regulated in the same way as other communication services.
VoIP is the technology that transmits phone calls over the Internet. Due to this open Internet component, it does not make sense for the FCC to regulate VoIP in the same way as other traditional phone services as VoIP is subject to different constraints from those relevant to wireline service.
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There is little doubt that at some near date, American phone systems will likely be converted to a full VoIP infrastructure as experts testify that the PSTN , the public switched telephone network, the current wireline infrastructure of the telephone system, cannot continue to serve the American market.
As it is, many of the biggest names in telecom have already largely converted to VoIP systems. This has led to legislative battles over the rights of telecom giants to entirely convert to VoIP systems, with some politicians concerned that VoIP systems are not suitable for certain demographics. At any rate, the larger telecom giants must continue to maintain copper lines, at least for now.
But as the national telecom industrial scene shifts to a network of IP systems, telecom giants object that strict regulations from the FCC on VoIP service will prevent them from optimizing their infrastructures. However, smaller VoIP providers welcome the idea of regulations, which would even the VoIP playing field for smaller providers to compete with bigger VoIP providers.
The top goal of any regulation is to prevent monopolies from forming, as when in the 1980s Ma Bell owned 80 percent of the entire US phone service before the FCC mandated the company split. Monopolies suffocate competition and fix high prices. Healthy competition is what gives both small providers and big VoIP providers the ability to offer cheap competitive prices. FCC regulations would maintain VoIPs competitive market, which will keep prices low for users.
New regulatory provisions will also mandate that all VoIP providers must supply adequate emergency coverage. Regulations will guarantee that 911 emergency calls made from VoIP users will be connected to emergency agencies like the fire department and emergency medical teams, and that customers will have access to emergency services during severe weather and other emergency situations.
VoIP providers are already required by law to offer a 911 service, so this will do little to affect any of the smaller telecoms that focus solely on VoIP. However, regulations like these could negatively affect larger companies like AT&T and Verizon, as these regulations might lead to higher expenses as telecoms adjust to meet requirements.
Regulatory measures would also require VoIP providers to follow regular protocols to prevent discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, demographic description, or national origin. Such measures are standard, and would not affect the price of VoIP service.
Finally, regulatory measures would protect VoIP customers from bad business practices by guaranteeing that telephone service providers will continue to traffic all calls, regardless of the origination of those calls. This means that competition among telecoms will not prevent customers from making calls effectively.
VoIP is the way of the future in regards to telecom service, and most people stand to benefit greatly from a national conversion to VoIP. VoIP is much cheaper than wireline service, and any measures that ensure that all customers have access to the same, cheap, reliable service, will be greatly in favor of consumer interest.