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Consumer Contact List -- Petition on VoIP

To: Consumer Contact List
Karen Peltz Strauss, RERC-TA
Re: Consumer Contact List - Petition on VoIP: Reply comments due on November 24, 2003

Date: October 31, 2003

On September 26, the FCC released a public notice (pdf attached), seeking comments on a petition that was filed by the Vonage Holdings Corporation on Voice over IP. The petition sought to overturn an Order by the Minnesota Public Service Commission, which had required Vonage's Voice Over Internet Protocol servicesto complywith the state's laws governing telephone services. Initial comments were already due - by October 27, 2003, but reply comments are not due until November 24, 2003.

Vonage has taken the position that it offers information services, and should not be subject to telecommunications rules. Others have taken the position that Vonage advertises itself as offering a home telephone service, including caller long and long distance service, with Caller ID, Call Waiting, and other features. They say that the function of the service, rather than the transport method, should govern how the service is regulated.The latter group of commenters say that Vonage's VoIP service intersects with the public switched network and they support Minnesota's position to regulate these services as telephone services. This is parallel to the position taken by various disability groups on the FCC's broadband proceedings.

The outcome of this ruling could have significant consequences for people with disabilities. The reason is that Section 255 clearly requires accessible telecommunications services. However, a 1999 proceeding opened by the FCC to determine whether Section 255 covers VoIP has never been resolved.

To date, no one from the disability community has commented on the petition.

Public Notice

This page last updated:November 6, 2003

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