IP-Phone Service Seeks FCC Ruling


A company that has just introduced an Internet-phone service
free-of-charge to users is seeking federal recognition that the product is an
unregulated information service.

The service -- called Free World Dialup, provided by
pulver.com Inc. (www.pulver.com
) -- allows consumers with a cable-modem or
digital-subscriber-line connection to make phone calls at no cost.

Because FWD neither owns facilities nor charges a fee, pulver.com is seeking
a ruling from the Federal Communications Commission that FWD is neither
telecommunications nor a telecommunications service as those terms are defined
in federal law.

Unlike information services, telecommunications services are heavily

"Ultimately, FWD is not a regulated service provided by a carrier, but an
Internet application riding over the transport capabilities purchased by the
consumers," pulver.com said in a Feb. 5 filing at the FCC, which has asked for
initial public comment by March 14.

FWD is another form of Internet-protocol telephony that is seeking a market
on the broadband investments made by cable and phone companies. Since its
inception two months ago, FWD has signed up 8,000 customers (40 percent of them
based in North America).

An FWD customer needs to buy a special phone (many are
listed on eBay Inc.'s auction Web site [www.ebay.com
] for $150 and higher) and register at pulver.com
to receive a special FWD phone number.

For now, an FWD caller can reach only another FWD consumer, and both need to
be online.