The FCC has stated that voice over IP should not be subject to state regulation. That’s good news for VoIP customers and great news for VoIP providers.
John Borland goes on to talk a bit about the inconsistent regulation of different communication mediums in this article. He’s right, the current regulations are quite inconsistent. Verizon and Vonage are offering pretty much the same service to the residential customer—the ability to make and receive voice calls—yet Verizon is regulated and Vonage is not. He doesn’t call for any more (or less) regulation, but does point to another article that advocates a more layered approach to regulation. From what I understand, this approach to regulation would be more consistent in that it regulates the type of service rather than how the service is delivered whether it is through analog phone lines, broadband, fiber or otherwise.
This is an interesting way to regulate, but I’m not sure if consistency would be the end result. More and more communication is taking place through IP networks. Today we are thinking about the difference between voice over IP and other data traffic. However, what is voice over IP if not purely data. If the FCC or some other regulatory body begins to differentiate between the different types of data we are sending over the wire, things are going to get messy. If “voice” is to be regulated no matter how it is sent, does that apply to all voice communications, or just those that terminate to a phone number? What about Skype, IChat AV, Podcasts, or two cans and a string for that matter? If voice is to be regulated differently than other data, then what about other data types? Will sending an image across the wire require a different type of regulation than text? The regulations do need to be rewritten, but I don’t think differentiating the actual data is the way to go.