NCTA Commits to Some VoIP Regulation

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The cable industry is committed to complying with a bare-bones set of regulations for its voice-over-Internet-protocol phone service, including assisting the FBI in tracking terrorists who communicate their plans via the Internet.

In a 39-page policy paper released Monday as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to launch a VoIP rulemaking, the NCTA identified VoIP rules it could live with.

In December, NCTA president Robert Sachs said the cable trade group would withhold comment until the FCC actually issued proposals and sought comment.

The NCTA said in the paper that VoIP providers that meet four service characteristics should offer 911 emergency service, kick in money to universal service and help law enforcement to track criminals pursuant to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

"But," the NCTA explained, "the overall direction of public policy should be toward a deregulatory environment in which even the most vital public-policy objectives are secured through the lightest possible regulation."

The association added that some VoIP providers were entitled to "certain rights," such as access to phone numbers, listing of their numbers in phone books, compensation for the exchange of voice traffic, the ability to receive universal-service funding and access to poles, ducts and rights-of-way.

But echoing FCC chairman Michael Powell, the NCTA called VoIP a new service that would be threatened by heavy-handed regulation.

"Only a framework that is minimally burdensome can create the right incentives and a favorable climate in which service providers can invest in and deploy VoIP services," the NCTA paper said.

An attorney often at odds with the NCTA said the paper showed that cable operators were willing to comply with a limited set of regulations in order to benefit from regulations that typically apply to traditional phone carriers.

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