FCC, Telco Reach VoIP-Blocking Settlement


Madison River Communications LLC will pay the federal government $15,000 to end a Federal Communications Commission investigation into the company's blocking of competing voice-over-Internet-protocol service.

“We saw a problem and we acted swiftly to ensure that Internet-voice service remains a viable option for consumers,” FCC chairman Michael Powell said in a prepared statement.

In addition to the payment, Madison River, based in Mebane, N.C., agreed to refrain from future blocking of VoIP traffic.

“The industry must adhere to certain consumer-protection norms if the Internet is to remain an open platform for innovation.” Powell said.

Madison River said on its Web site (www.madisonriver.net) that it is the 17th-largest telephone company in the United States. A company spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

A few weeks ago, Vonage Holdings Corp., a New Jersey-based VoIP provider, confirmed that it has held informal talks with the FCC about a phone company that had blocked its service. Vonage routes voice traffic over the Internet for customers with broadband connections.

The FCC order Thursday did not reference Vonage by name. Vonage did not file a formal complaint with the agency. A Vonage spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.

Powell indicated that the Madison River settlement demonstrated the FCC's commitment to policing anti-competitive conduct on the Internet.

“In my view, the surest way to preserve ‘Net Freedom’ is to handle these issues in an enforcement context where hypothetical worries give way to concrete facts and -- as we have shown today -- real solutions,” he added.