Federal Regulation Continues to Move Toward Non-Interconnected VoIP Services

Regulation Watch

Federal Regulation Continues to Move Toward Non-Interconnected VoIP Services

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

On Oct. 7, 2011, the FCC (News - Alert) released several orders in its proceeding implementing the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, an expansive piece of legislation that covers disability access requirements over a host of different types of services, including non-interconnected VoIP services (non-IVPs). The CVAA expansively defines non-IVP service as one that “(i) enables real-time voice communications that originate from or terminate to the user’s location using Internet protocol or any successor protocol; and (ii) requires Internet protocol compatible customer premises equipment” and “does not include any service that is an interconnected VoIP service.”

The first FCC order requires non-IVP providers to contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund, which subsidizes relay services for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. The order requires such providers to report interstate end user revenues and remit a percentage of that revenue to the TRS Fund.

The second order implements Section 716 of the CVAA by applying disability access requirements on non-IVP providers (among other types of services). Classified as “advanced communications services” under the CVAA, Section 716 requires non-IVP providers to make their services and products accessible to people with disabilities, unless it is not achievable to do so. Covered entities can build accessibility features into the applicable equipment or services or rely on third-party applications, peripheral devices, software, hardware, or CPE that are available to individuals with disabilities at nominal cost. 

While interconnected VoIP providers have been subjected to these requirements since 2007, the FCC’s orders under the CVAA demonstrate a continued push toward regulating new types of VoIP services, and could significantly expand the commission’s jurisdiction over other types of IP-enabled services that to date have gone largely unregulated by the agency.

 >William B. Wilhelm (News - Alert) is a partner and Jeffrey R. Strenkowski is counsel at the global law firm of Bingham McCutchen LLP (www.bingham.com).

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi