CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide
Networking

VoIP: Today Des Moines, tomorrow the world

Federal ruling makes Internet phone providers roll out services more actively.

Several Net phone operators are more aggressively expanding just days after the Federal Communications Commission shielded them from state regulation.

Most notably, Net phone operator Vonage resumed its push into rural areas in the United States on Thursday, following a two-month lull waiting for last week's FCC decision. The newest Vonage market is Des Moines, with several other smaller cities to follow, a representative said.

Local phone giant SBC decided to introduce its residential Internet phone service earlier that scheduled to take advantage of the spotlight cast by the FCC's ruling, an SBC spokeswoman said this week. The service, however, won't be available until early 2005.

The hubbub involves phone calls that flow over the Internet, thus avoiding inefficient, heavily taxed and regulated home phone networks. The number of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) households is expected to mushroom to 18 million by 2008 as service quality increases, already inexpensive rates continue to drop and more homes get broadband, which VoIP operators usually require.

Last week, the FCC ruled that state utility regulators don't have jurisdiction over VoIP calls, overruling concerns that as more calls flow over the unregulated Internet, there will be less taxes to fund public telephone services and 911. VoIP operators would have otherwise needed to comply with 51 sets of regulations.

"The profits that I would have made selling prepaid calling would have been spent on lawyers," said Jeff Pulver, a founder of the telephone number dispenser Libretel, which soon after the ruling began testing a prepaid service for VoIP users to call "off-net" to traditional home phones. "The risk would not have been worth it. Now I just have to deal with one regulator, not 51."