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USA VoIP Legislation Battles To Begin

The battle over whether or not VoIP is a service or an application delivered over the Internet is gearing up in the United States' Congress. eWeek's article provides a nice backdrop and helps clarify a situation that will only get murkier.

Here's why. First the FCC is really not making decisions around VoIP, despite the news that impacted only AT&T's IP traffic of PSTN originated and terminated calls. Secondly, there will be no doubt that at some point cases involving taxes and fees end up in court to define what is a VoIP call versus a telephone call which had part of the traffic and signals routed over IP. For example, is calling an IP telephony gateway that changes the content from analog to MGCP, SIP or h.323 a VoIP call or just data traffic over the Internet? Calls and traffic like that have been going that route for years, as it has been one way by which the so called minute stealers have built a flourishing business.

Companies like Level3 and Qwest, and before their acquisition by Level3, Genuity have reportedly worked with companies in the IP telephony space who arbitrage traffic origination and termination in the USA to avoid some of the same taxes or charges that the Telcos want AT&T to pay.

As for Congress, remember that the Telcos in the USA--i.e. Bell South, Verizon, SBC, Qwest-- all want to keep their customer bases, and having both upstarts like Vonage and others, plus a looming awakening giant like AT&T or Sprint really ready to compete due to the proliferation of broadband, means they've got their lobbyists working overtime to make sure the elected officials don't hurt them, by helping to spur innovation.

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