Powell Moving VoIP Agenda at FCC


The Federal Communications Commission is planning a Dec. 1 public forum on the migration of voice services to the Internet -- an area of growing interest to cable operators and Wall Street analysts covering them.

FCC chairman Michael Powell announced the forum in a Nov. 5 letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), in which he also committed the agency to launching a rulemaking that will likely deal with the thorny regulatory issues surrounding VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), such as universal-service payments, 911 requirements and homeland security.

Cablevision Systems Corp., Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable are pursuing VoIP at an accelerated pace, hoping that phone calls will enhance their video and data bundles.

"These services could reinforce cable's lead in the [high-speed-data] market and open the door to new market opportunities -- for example, the small-business sector," Merrill Lynch & Co. said in a Nov. 3 cable-industry report.

Qwest Communications International Inc. CEO Richard Notebaert said Tuesday that his 14-state Baby Bell would offer VoIP in Minnesota, where a federal judge recently ruled that VoIP provider Vonage Holdings Corp. may not be regulated as a traditional phone company by the state.