Reps. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the ranking members of the Energy & Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee, respectively, have called on the Federal Communications Commission not to allow states to collect universal service fees from voice over Internet prototol (VoIP) providers.
That came in comments from the pair of legislators on a petition to the FCC from Nebraska and Kansas utility commissions for a declaratory ruling to that effect.
Barton and Stearns told the FCC, if it is going to do anything, to issue a rulemaking proposal so it can collect comment.
In 2004, the FCC ruled in the Vonage Order that VoIP is and interstate service, the legislators pointed out, adding that deciding instead that they are subject to USF fees would run counter to subsequent rulings that the Vonage decision preempted state fees, and created uncertainty by raising the question of whether other state regs could be applied to VoIP,
Google and Verizon, which are increasingly on the same page these days, recently joined with AT&T, Microsoft and others to tell the commission that they believed VoIP was inherently insterstate, and that if they acted on the petition, they should do so narrowly, making clear that states are preempted from regulating things like entry
rates or other terms and conditions of service (http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020657675).
Cable operators already pay into the national USF fund for VoIP based on a predetermined formula of what percentage of calls are interstate, with an opportunity to appeal that if they think the percentage should be lower. Of course, if the balance of those calls are presumed to be intrastate, it raises the question of why states should not be able to regulate that component.