Today, the FCC declared Pulver.com’s Free World Dialup service an
unregulated information service, and launched a proceeding seeking
comment on the treatment of voice over IP more broadly.
Chairman Powell said something to the effect that this is the most
important proceeding in the history of communications regulation, and
he’s right. There has been intense political back-and-forth on
these issues behind the scenes, with Congressional leaders and the FBI
pushing hard on the FCC. The Commissioners and the staffers
drafting today’s items worked through the night to reach
compromises. The meeting was pushed back from 9:30 to 11am and
the VOIP items were moved the the end of the agenda, no doubt to allow
time for final rewriting.
It is vitally important that the tech community participate in the VOIP
proceeding. The decisions the FCC makes will determine not just
how new VOIP providers like Vonage and Packet8 are treated, but the
rules of the road for the broadband superhighway. As I said at
the FCC VOIP hearing in December, voice is now an application.
It’s one of many applications that will be delivered through
interconnected broadband networks. The FCC’s actions will
determine the business environment for network operators, application
providers, and content creators. This is the whole enchilada.
When the text of the notice is released, we’ll know the exact comment
deadlines and questions being asked. FCC proceedings are open to
anyone — you don’t have to be a lawyer or a company in the space, and
you can file via a Web form. (One of my proudest accomplishments
from my time at the Commission.)
I’ll have more thoughts on this issue soon.