Will Telephony Regulators Lose Their Teeth With VoIP Adoption?

There’s an interesting bill finding it’s way through California’s legal system these days. The bill is known as SB 1161 and it has sailed through California’s legislature and now sits on the desk of the state’s Governor, who is expected to pass the bill and put its far-ranging changes to the way the country’s biggest state regulates its telecom industries. Opponents of the bill say it will remove all the power telephony regulators currently have and, at the same moment, remove many of the protections consumers currently enjoy. Proponents of the bill, primarily the bill’s sponsor AT&T say the bill’s big changes will ensure “internet freedom” for the future.

How can opponents and proponents of this one bill come to such vastly different conclusions?

What does “internet freedom” have to do with a deregulating bill being pushed by one of the country’s biggest and oldest landline telephony oligarchs?

And who, exactly, is right about this bill’s true nature?

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Should The USF Cover Broadband?

The Universal Service Fund was founded for an undeniably positive purpose- to amass the funds needed to make sure that everyone in the U.S., regardless of their economic status or geographic location, have access to advanced communication technology. While there are naturally a few opponents of the goals of this fund, support for providing universal access to top communication technologies tends to cross partisan lines. Access to communication technologies increasingly spells the difference between success and failure in today’s world and if we want to uphold our national dream of equal opportunity, then we need to make sure all of us have regular, reliable and affordable access to the same communication tech.

Setting unbridled idealism aside, we can just about all agree that increasing access to telecom services within poor communities is a good thing.

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USF AND FLAT RATE PRICING PLAN (PART 2)

Back in 1996, it was still possible for telecom companies to split their service plans into a number of different revenue streams. Telecom companies were able to say, with total specificity, how much of their revenue came in from international calls, how much of their money arrived from beeper use, how much money they had coming in from local calls, and yes, how much end-user revenue they earned from interstate communication. Telecom companies could do this because these providers tended to charge based on specific usage. Each time you wanted to communicate with someone interstate you had to pay to do so, creating a firmly defined revenue stream that was easy to track, add up, and, yes, tax for the sake of bulking up the USF.

Nice Pricing Models = New Taxation Headaches

With the massive explosion of mobile devices fewer and fewer telecom providers continue to charge their customers based on usage. At least usage that’s as specifically defined as it was back in 1996. These days pricing tends to follow the model of flat-rate pricing, which basically states “a call is a call is a call is a call.”

Local calls and interstate calls now cost the same amount of money. And that’s to say nothing of the various other simplified payment plans that really mess with the idea of the USF’s tax plan. How can you accurately tax interstate communication if it’s included within an unlimited calling plan? How much of the cost of an unlimited calling plan’s price goes towards providing interstate communication?

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USF and Flat-Rate Pricing Plan (Part 1)

Federal legislation played a huge role in the formation of the country’s telecom industry. Today, new bills and acts passed by the U.S. Government continue to shape the present and future of our field. One of the biggest acts to pass over the last couple of decades was the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This act represented the first major overhaul of the U.S. telecom field in over 60 years. It basically set the shape of the modern communications industry. This was the first act to take the internet into consideration. Yet even though the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was prescient in some ways it failed to predict one of the biggest changes in the telecom market. Over the last 15 years, flat-rate calling plans spread all over the U.S. Nowhere is this oversight more apparent than the formation of the Universal Service Fund (USF).

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Could VoIP Service Become Illegal?

The thought of a communication technology becoming illegal sounds preposterous at first, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally impossible. In fact, a serious consideration to severely limiting or outright banning VoIP service providers is already given in one country, Ethiopia, and censored or otherwise limited in a number of other nations. True, none of these countries experience the level of freedom, and specifically the level of freedom of speech, that we enjoy in the United States, but their bans on VoIP clearly showcase how a seemingly innocuous technology reverberates with heightened political and economic meaning.

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Freedom to Choose Your Voice Service Provider?

Franchising business offers a good opportunity to various levels of business expertise and investment capital. Studies show that 97% of franchise businesses are still operating after the first year, compared to only 62% of independently owned. In most agency relationships, the franchisors are the risk takers whereas the franchisees prefer to steer clear of risks. In a franchising relationship, the franchisor and franchisee usually have different objectives

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Information or Telecommunications? How Regulation Affects Hosted PBX and Law Enforcement

Communications is a tightly controlled industry in the U.S. With new hosted PBX technologies, some issues have cropped up that caused the FCC to run into a snag when it comes to properly regulating them. Some of these might seem like simple semantics, but even something as minor as figuring out what to call a hosted PBX service can snowball into something more serious.

Look at it this way- there are separate regulations for information services and telecommunications services. Information services, like the internet, are not as tightly regulated as telecommunications services, like telephone services. So… how should regulators qualify Voice-over-IP systems? They’re essentially a telecommunications service, but one that relies on the internet. Do calls made over the internet qualify as phone calls, or as internet data content? Calling them an “internet content” would make internet-based phone services subject to far fewer regulations than traditional phone services. Needless to say, VoIP service providers are pushing for an information services classification, while traditional phone companies are lobbying for a telecommunications services classification.

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FCC’s VoIP Regulation Dilemma

telephone

1835, “apparatus for signaling by musical notes” (devised by Sudré in 1828), from Fr. téléphone (c.1830), from télé- “far” (see tele-) + phone “sound” (see fame). Also used of other apparatus early 19c., including “instrument similar to a foghorn for signaling from ship to ship” (1844). The electrical communication tool was first described in modern form by P.Reis (1861); developed by Bell, and so called by him from 1876. The verb is attested from 1878.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has become a mature technology that allows individuals to place phone calls using the Internet Protocol. VoIP utilizes the Internet infrastructure to make voice and video calls as opposed to the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) that has been in place for more than a century. VoIP service is less expensive to provide and operate as compared to traditional telephony. Another advantage of VoIP is that a subscriber can make a voice or video call from any global location with a broadband Internet connection. Modern VoIP telephony evolutionizes the boundaries of telephony by adding voice, presence management, chat and other services and by then embedding it into many business applications that are run on computers.

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