First look at FCC's plans for Internet phone regulation expected tomorrow

8 January 2014 by Steve Blum
, , , ,

“Software developers code sandboxes into their programs and create a space for safe experimentation”, said FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during a panel discussion at CES this afternoon. “We need to do that in Washington”.

We’ll find out tomorrow what kind of sandbox the FCC is thinking about using to test how it’s going to regulate the telephone business as it transitions from traditional switched networks to systems completely based on Internet protocol technology. The draft order – scheduled for a vote by the commission later this month – will outline a series of trials that’ll eventually lead to a new regulatory framework for the phone industry.

“We need to understand it before we take any concrete steps”, said commissioner Ajit Pai, speaking on the same panel. Fellow commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly agreed that actual experiments in the field are needed before moving forward with new rules.

The FCC is grappling with a number of issues raised by the IP transition, as it’s called, including VoIP interconnections and 911 service. And perhaps even allowing carriers to end wireline service and switch customers completely over to wireless networks

At least one provider has proposed serving consumers with wireless service in place of wireline service in certain geographic areas. We seek comment on a trial that would analyze the impact of doing so and, in particular, focus on the consumer experience and ensure that consumers have the ability to move back to a wireline product during the trial.

From a Californian perspective, it’s a completely federal job. In 2012, the state legislature passed and governor Brown signed a law that keeps the California Public Utilities Commission out of the business regulating Internet protocol services, including phone calls, until at least 2020.