The VOIP battle heats up

BusinessWeek: “In Minnesota’s view, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and
looks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

When I was at the FCC, I used to do a presentation called “Ducks,
Grandma, and Sausage.” The Internet, and especially Internet
telephony, quacks like the duck of regulated communications
services. The problem is that, in the eyes of many, anything that
undermines the existing regulatory transfer system means grandma won’t
be able to get decent phone service. And changing the system
means going through the regulatory and legislative process, which is
like sausage: you don’t want to know what happens on the inside.

That was six years ago.

I felt strongly at the time that the FCC should stay away from voice
over IP regulatory questions, because raising them would open a
pandora’s box. But over the years since, I’ve become increasingly
convinced that avoiding the issue could lead to worse outcomes.
Now we’re starting to see the consequences of the FCC’s benign
neglect. Other interests, like state regulators, are jumping into
the vacuum. It’s time to for the FCC to take responsibility and
bring some enlightened rationality to the debate. Otherwise, one
of two things will happen. Either VOIP regulation will become a messy
quagmire driven by overblown political and lobbying interests, or it
will be a battleground between big cable and phone monopolies.

Neither outcome is good for innovative companies and for users.