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New VoIP ruling on AT&T service

To: Consumer Contact List
From: Karen Peltz Strauss, RERC-TA
Re: Consumer Contact List - new VoIP ruling on AT&T service
Date: April 23, 2004

On April 21, 2004, the FCC released a decision that concludes that a limited type of VoIP service - one that originates and terminates on the public switched telephone network via regular telephones, but which travels over the Internet during the middle of the phone call - is a telecommunications service. The ruling makes a point of saying that this type of service has no enhanced functionalities for users benefiting from its IP conversion in the middle of the call. The ruling denies AT&T's request to be exempt from paying access charges (compensation made by interexchange carriers to local exchange companies for the use of their networks to make interstate and foreign calls). The FCC also notes that providers of this phone-to-phone IP telephony service must pay into the universal service fund (and hence the TRS fund). Here is an excerpt from the decision, which is well worth reading for those of you following the VoIP issue (the URL for the ruling follows):

"AT&T offers "telecommunications" because it provides "transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received." And its offering constitutes a "telecommunications service" because it offers "telecommunications for a fee directly to the public." Users of AT&T's specific service obtain only voice transmission with no net protocol conversion, rather than information services such as access to stored files. More specifically, AT&T does not offer these customers a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information;" therefore, its service is not an information service under section 153(20) of the Act. End-user customers do not order a different service, pay different rates, or place and receive calls any differently than they do through AT&T's traditional circuit-switched long distance service; the decision to use its Internet backbone to route certain calls is made internally by AT&T. To the extent that protocol conversions associated with AT&T's specific service take place within its network, they appear to be "internetworking" conversions, which the Commission has found to be telecommunications services."

PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RULING THAT AT&T'S PHONE-TO-PHONE IP TELEPHONY SERVICES ARE EXEMPT FROM ACCESS CHARGES. Denied the Petition for Declaratory Ruling that AT&T's Phone-to-Phone IP Telephony Services are Exempt from Access Charges. (Dkt No. 02-361). Action by: the Commission. Adopted: 04/14/2004 by ORDER. (FCC No. 04-97). WCB<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A1.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A2.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A3.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A4.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A5.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A6.doc>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A1.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A2.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A3.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A4.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A5.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A6.pdf>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A1.txt>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A2.txt>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A3.txt>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A4.txt>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A5.txt>
<http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-04-97A6.txt>


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