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Jan 28 2010   10:41AM GMT

Want to Provide Voice Service? Expect FCC Oversight

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Newcomers to the voice arena are trying to have their proverbial cake while eating it too. They want to be seen as competitors to traditional phone companies and wireless providers, but they also want to operate outside of the rules and regulations that govern those entities.

AT&T has filed complaints that Google has discriminated against certain regions or area codes in providing voice service. Google responded by saying that it does not own the data network, nor any voice infrastructure so those rules don’t apply to them. They are simply providing a service that relies on third-party infrastructure.

Gerson Lehrman Group analyst P.J. Louis said in a blog post “If the FCC behaves true to form, they will be reactive. The problem with being reactive is you can never stay ahead of the changes or troubles. Hence, I would be expecting total chaos in the marketplace. I would also be expecting the FCC to overreact to all of the changes occurring in the market.”

I disagree with that assessment. I don’t think it gives FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and the current FCC administration enough credit for the proactive efforts they have invested in trying to rein in communications providers, and to establish a clearer framework of regulations that adapt to current technology and meet the needs of the country moving forward.

The bottom line for companies like Google and Skype is that, while their services and business model may not fit the existing telecommunications mold, that isn’t enough to allow them to deliver critical voice services while remaining exempt from communications oversight.

If you want to provide voice service, expect FCC oversight and plan on playing by the rules.

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