FCC & VoIP – Powergrabbing Preemption

by on October 20, 2004

“The Commission is not simply considering minor adjustments to specific regulations–the Commission is considering the future of electronic and optic communications for many years to come” – FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

Does this statement scare anyone?

Powell said this at the Fall Voice on the Net Conference 2004 in Boston yesterday. He said it in the context of streamlining regulations from the quilt of 51 different state regulatory bodies. One unified regulatory body for VoIP is good, right? (here’s an article on the speech)

Powell’s “patchwork” argument has benefits, but is also an excuse for FCC “oversight” and “involvement.” Shouldn’t this be handled by Congress, where there could be simple legislation banning states from interfering with VoIP. Whoops, there is – and it got hugely bloated.

The VoIP bill sponsored by Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.)–the “Regulatory Freedom Act of 2004”–it originally called for a light regulatory touch for VoIP and preemption of state and local governments. Senate Commerce Committee amendments to this bill have effectively killed it, expanding what was once a very narrow bill to include obligations for state regulated access charges and universal service taxation.

Telecom regulation is a mess. Powell’s speech talked about a telecom regulatory revolution. It’s time to revolt, which means more than just FCC preemption of state telecom laws. It’s time for a fundamental change of the FCC and federal telecom regulation.

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