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FCC releases Net phone guidelines

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking public comment on the key question of how to treat Internet phone calls that reach traditional phones.

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday released guidelines that it will use to decide what rules, if any, will govern companies providing Internet telephone services.

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The guidelines consist mainly of a list of questions on which the FCC is seeking public comment. The FCC has already ruled that phone calls that never touch the public switched telephone network, so-called pure voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), should not be regulated.

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The FCC appears to have left room for a varied set of opinions. The agency will use the public comments to determine whether calls that travel over the Internet and the traditional phone network should be regulated, a key Internet phone regulatory issue.

"The changes wrought by the rise of IP-enabled communications appear to be revolutionary," the FCC wrote in the 96?page document.

VoIP is a technology for making phones calls that use the Internet Protocol, the world's most popular method for sending data from one computer to another. After years of overpromising and underdelivering, VoIP is generating significant interest among telecom carriers, corporations and consumers, thanks to significant improvements in quality of service.


It's clear that the technology
will not completely escape
regulation or taxation.

VoIP is already being embraced by carriers as a way to cut traffic costs on international and long-distance calls, and it is expected to eventually replace the public switched telephone network, as big phone companies convert to IP-based fiber-optic networks. Currently, about 11 percent of all voice traffic is classified as VoIP, although less than 1 percent of those calls are initiated on a VoIP phone.