Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) unveiled legislation Friday intended to shield Internet-based phone calls from state and local regulation while subjecting the fast-growing service to minimal federal oversight.
Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.), also introduced a House bill Friday that was similar but not identical to Sununu's legislation.
Both lawmakers have been signaling for several months their intent to advance legislation that would exempt voice-over-Internet-protocol technology from traditional telecommunications regulation.
Many cable-industry leaders consider VoIP the next high-growth product. As a result, the industry is monitoring the direction VoIP legislation takes -- especially in 2005, when House and Senate leaders plan an overhaul of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
"We applaud Sen. Sununu and Rep. Pickering for their leadership in introducing the first VoIP legislation and look forward to working closely with them in the months ahead," National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Robert Sachs said in a prepared statement Friday.
Sununu plans to introduce his bill next week, his spokeswoman, Barbara Riley, said.