Four weeks from today is the deadline set by the Federal Communications Commission to receive comments about how it should regulate VoIP peering.
“I believe the issues being tackled in the proceeding … are critically important to the international VoIP peering industry (and to VoIP peering generally) and the outcome could have a dramatic impact on this dynamic and fragmented industry segment,” says Jonathan Marashlian, managing partner, Helein & Marashlian (News - Alert), LLC - The CommLaw Group. “Yet much like the Internet itself, it is this very dynamism and fragmentation that is a key driver of competition and technological advancement, which have led to the steady decline of international long-distance costs to all time lows, and on a global scale.”
The commission is considering this issue now in light of a petition brought by Toronto Asia Tele Access Telecom, says Marashlian. The company requested a ruling regarding the application of Sections 214 and 254 of the Communications Act to its provisioning of international VoIP peering services and its distribution of private label prepaid calling cards.
Canadian Toronto Asia Tele Access Telecom, which got into the U.S. market as a private label distributor of prepaid calling cards back in 2006, now provides prepaid calling cards to U.S. distributors and offers IP-enabled calling, SMS and Web dialing through various websites to U.S. customers. However, this company doesn’t have section 214 authority to provide international services, it has not registered with the commission, and does not contribute to the Universal Service Fund or any other FCC (News - Alert) programs, explains Marashlian. So, what the company wants is for the FCC to issue a declaratory ruling that it has been lawfully operating in the U.S. and is not required under current rules to take any steps to comply with any requirements.
Marashlian – who represents Compass (News - Alert) Global, an enhanced communications services company out of Woodcliff Lake, N.J. – says that there are two possible directions the FCC could go on this. It could either give the petitioner an all-clear and then move forward to establish rules to clarify rules as they apply to private label distributors of communications services and VoIP peering services. Or, he says, the commission could elect to apply traditional common carrier regulations to such companies.
“If the FCC pursues the latter path, it could potentially impose traditional common carrier regulations on non-U.S. carriers who have limited to absolutely no ties or physical nexus with the United States – other than VoIP peering/traffic exchange agreements with U.S. partners,” Marashlian says. “Importantly, such traditional regulations will likely extend USF, TRS and a host of other FCC-mandated fees to revenue derived from the exchange of VoIP peering traffic, which could raise the cost of services by up to 20 percent.”
To learn more about key regulatory issues of this nature, join us for the Regulatory 2.0 Workshop on April 12 in Washington, D.C.
Edited by Janice McDuffee