A federal judge in Minnesota Tuesday barred the state's public utility commission from requiring Internet-phone company Vonage Holdings Corp. to apply for a license to conduct business as a telephone company.
"We're pleased with the decision," Vonage spokeswoman Brooke Schulz said, adding that the judge's opinion would not be available until Friday.
Vonage allows consumers with cable-broadband or digital-subscriber-line connections to make calls over the Internet -- a service many cable companies intend to offer also.
Voice-over-Internet-protocol services, for now, are unregulated, unlike phone services provided by such major carriers as Verizon Communications and BellSouth Corp.
Minnesota's PUC recently ruled that Vonage's "DigitalVoice" service was an intrastate telephone service within the meaning of state law, and it ordered the company to obtain state certification, to file tariffs and to create a 911 plan comparable to the emergency service offered by traditional phone carriers. Vonage was barred from signing up new customers in the state until it complied.
Vonage responded by seeking an injunction in federal court. Two weeks ago, the Edison, N.J.-based company asked the Federal Communications Commission to pre-empt Minnesota's PUC and declare VoIP an information service beyond state jurisdiction.
FCC chairman Michael Powell said last Wednesday that he would embark the agency on a mission to classify VoIP within the meaning of federal telecommunications law.
In other Vonage news, the company announced Tuesday that its broadband-telephony service is now available throughout the state of Vermont.