My spin: If you’ve got a broadband Internet connection you can get Vonage or some other company to give you very low cost, flat rate telephone service via your Internet connection. Right now, regulators are grappling with the decision if, Internet telephone service should be subjected to the same taxes and fees that their cousins in the traditional telephone world must pay.
Some say, doing so would stifle this young market. Others say it takes need fees away from the poor, who’s telephone service is subsidized by these fees.
What to do?
Here’s some snips from the NY Times article:
But Mr. Davidson is more than an adventuresome consumer. As a member of the Florida Public Service Commission, he is a regulator who is eager to see Internet telephone service spread because he predicts it can make the nation’s phone services less expensive and richer in features.
That is why Mr. Davidson wants the federal and state governments to let Internet-based phone service blossom, free from regulation, taxes and surcharges. Like a growing number of officials who advocate minimal oversight of the service – including Michael K. Powell, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission – Mr. Davidson says Internet telephone service should be treated just like other unregulated Internet services, including e-mail messaging and Web surfing.
But unlike some proponents of deregulation, Mr. Davidson also has a nagging concern. Because Internet-based phone service rides over traditional telephone or cable lines, it will not work unless the conventional phone network is intact. The government has long regarded that network as a national asset akin to roads and highways, and it is a communications system whose reliability and virtual ubiquity make it the envy of most of the rest of the world. In fact, if users of Internet phones were not able to communicate with all the millions of people still plugged into the conventional telephone network, Internet telephone service would be little more than a hobbyist’s experiment.
Some want to see state regulation eliminated; others want to see regulation streamlined but kept intact. Many want to retain guarantees of 911 service and universal service for low-income and rural residents, but they differ considerably on how to achieve those goals. Even within the National Association of Utility Regulators, an influential lobbying group of state regulators, some top officials have greatly divergent views about how to regulate telecommunications in the 21st century.
That is why policy makers like Ms. Lynch of the California resist the idea that Internet telephone service will lead to a telecommunications market so competitive that government regulation becomes unnecessary. She said that if conventional telephone companies like Qwest were allowed to avoid regulation by moving their business to Internet-based service, it would drain money from the universal service funds that have enabled low-income residents, as well as schools and libraries, to afford basic phone service.