FCCs Powell: Dont Stifle VOIP

FCC chief Michael Powell says traditional telephony rules could hamper VOIP>

Emerging voice services over the Internet wont be hampered by decades-old telephony rules, if the countrys top telecommunications regulator has his way. As the Federal Communications Commission prepares rules for voice over IP this year, FCC Chairman Michael Powell will fight to ward off new burdens that could stymie innovation.

Defining voice over the Internet as an application rather than a service, Powell argued against regulating VOIP as traditional telephony. "Internet voice will unleash a torrent of innovative products and services," Powell said in an address at the National Press Club here last week. "The burden should be placed squarely on government to explain why regulations are needed."

Powell heralded VOIP as offering promise for spurring the kind of competition envisioned in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and he cautioned that if the FCC is not careful, it could smother the emerging technology. He said he plans to hold a summit of government and industry leaders this year to discuss the status of Internet voice traffic.

Network equipment makers are banking on next-generation broadband networking to turn around the slumping telecom industry, which has not rebounded the way the IT industry has. Network equipment sales fell 73 percent over the last three years, but spending on broadband gear was relatively strong, according to a Telecommunications Industry Association report released last week.

The TIA, of Washington, predicts in its 2004 Telecommunications Market Review and Forecast that spending on broadband equipment and services will double by 2007.

It is no coincidence that several carriers and vendors championed new offerings last week. Global Crossing Ltd. unveiled a partnership with VoEx Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich., to provide wholesale voice, data and IP services to the VOIP integrator.

WorldCom Inc. (MCI) and Synnex Corp. agreed to a joint plan that allows Synnex to sell MCIs business offerings to its resellers. The agreement lets Synnexs resellers offer MCIs VOIP service, allowing enterprises to mix voice, data and Internet onto one network, and MCIs Contact Center offerings.

Broadview Networks Inc., of New York, completed trials of its VOIP service with small-business customers in the metropolitan area. Targeting businesses with three to 50 lines, Broadviews service allows users to use the computer, phone and Internet interchangeably.