California Governor Signs Bill Limiting IP Regs

Brown Says It Will Spur Innovative service

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that limits the regulatory authority of the state's Public Utilities Commission over Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and IP-enabled services (voice, data, or video) there until 2020.

In a letter to members of the California Senate, he said that consumer safeguards remained in place, that the bill would spur the growth of "innovative services that have become a hallmark of our state."

Brown pointed out that VoIP providers will continue to contribute to the Universal Service Fund, provide e911 access, were still subject to consumer protection laws as well as PUC oversight of pole attachments.

But the bill does prevent PUC's from regulating IP video, voice and data services on their own initiative, limiting them to actions expressly delegated by Federal law or directed by statute.

The legislature approved the bill Aug. 23, with its backers saying it "preserves the future of the Internet by encouraging continued investment and technological advances and supporting continued consumer choice and access to innovative services that benefit California," and "ensuring a vibrant and competitive open Internet that allows California's technology businesses to continue to flourish and contribute to economic development throughout the state."

The California Cable & Telecommunications Association, which had been tracking the bill's progress, said it would essentially "reaffirm California's current policy of not regulating Internet-based services."

Activist group Media Alliance, which had been fighting the bill, instead said it "leaves consumers in California basically on their own in the Wild West on a host of issues including universal service, non-discrimination, privacy protections, service quality through line maintenance requirements, fair billing and collections, refunds for unauthorized charges, and reporting on contractual rates for female and minority-owned businesses.