Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) Hearing
STATEMENT OF THE
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES,
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS OFFICERS AND ADVISORS
BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE,
SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION
UNITED STATES SENATE
FEBRUARY 24, 2004
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Hollings and Members
of the Committee:
The National Association of Counties (NACo), the National Association
of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA) and TeleCommUnity
(collectively "Local Government"), are concerned that
the actions of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission)
in a series of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) dockets could
frustrate congressionally mandated policies.
Local Government, therefore, is very grateful to the Committee for
holding this hearing at which Local Government hopes to deliver
II. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
- Local Government is enthusiastic about the benefits that VoIP
may offer local government and our constituents. Local Government
strongly supports competition, the rollout of new services, and
the economic growth that accompanies new technological developments.
- Policy developments of this magnitude require careful attention
to all of the potential ramifications of such developments and
attendant regulatory decisions. Local Government has shared these
concern with the FCC and is grateful for the opportunity to share
this concern with the Congress. Worse, Local Government feels
that the regulatory structure envisioned by the FCC is based upon
the Commission’s flawed analysis in its Cable Modem order.
- Congress, not the FCC, should be making decisions on VoIP as
the conclusions on VoIP will result in implications that go far
beyond telecommunications policy.
III. LOCAL GOVERNMENTS’ CONCERNS
Local Government is concerned that should the FCC classify VoIP
as an interstate information service, social goals and national
security safeguards established by the Congress will be undercut.
These social concerns include but are by no means limited to:
- The national commitment of ensuring that there is universal
access to affordable telecommunications services.
- Frustrating the investment by local government public safety
agencies to locate those in need by means E-911 services;
- Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (Section
- The ability of Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies
to protect our national interests by having access to communications
networks as established by the Communications Assistance for Law
Enforcement Act of 1994. Local government is not alone invoicing
these concerns. The responsible agencies have shared their concerns
as evidenced in letters from the Department of Justice, and the
Federal Bureau of Investigations to FCC.
IV. MISSING ISSUES
Local Government also believes that there are a number of issues
that have not found their way into the debate as to what the statutory
and regulatory paradigm for VoIP should be. Local Governments believes
that a fair and effective policy regarding VoIP must consider the
- Fair Treatment of Consumers -- Local governments are often the
consumer regulators of last resort -- when the citizenry requires
police power protection not asserted by federal or state authorities,
local governments must act. The VoIP proceeding must address and
preserve local government authority to provide such protections
including guaranteed access to fair services at fair prices.
- Fair Treatment as a Consumer -- Local governments are among
the largest consumers of electronic communications,both wired
and wireless. As consumers, local governments must be guaranteed
access to fair services at fair prices.
- Fair Compensation -- Local governments provide essential resources
to the deployment of VoIP. Local governments should receive adequate
compensation for the resources they commit to the provision of
VoIP. For example, local governments should receive adequate rent
for use of public land or other public resources. And VoIP providers
should pay a fair share of taxes in a broad-based taxation system.
- Fair Treatment as a Provider-- Many local governments offer
traditional Title II [some cities are providing phone and data
services for themselves while other localities are providing competitive
choice] and Title VI [a growing number of communities are offering
a competitive cable service] within their communities. Other local
governments have developed significant network capacities on institutional
networks or wired infrastructures that could support VoIP services.
As the FCC addresses VoIP, it must not take any actions that would
limit the ability of local governments to provide such services.
- Rights versus Responsibilities of Carriers -- The focus of recent
FCC proceedings and legislative debates has been on the regulatory
burden borne by Title II and Title VI service providers. Just
as important, but often ignored, are the numerous rights and entitlements
provided to such providers due to their status as Title II or
Title VI providers. If Title II and Title VI entities choose to
abandon those offerings, or shift their focus toward providing
VoIP services, and away from traditional Title II or Title VI
services,they will endanger their special status. Local Government
believes that the VoIP proceeding should address this issue to
consider the full implications of VoIP.
In support of this concern,Local Government requested that the
FCC first complete its work on the overall treatment of VoIP before
considering individual petitions. The FCC rejected this request
and on February 18, 2004 issued its order in the Pulver "Free
World Dial Up" petition.
V. CONGRESS MUST LEAD
Technological changes may have outpaced the statutory and regulatory
environment established by the Communications Act. As demonstrated
above, VoIP policy is a complex problem, with many interrelated
parts. Local Government is therefore very concerned that the piecemeal
consideration of VoIP in separate proceedings at the FCC will limit
the nation's ability to develop a rational holistic approach to
the problems posed by VoIP.
Local Government also believes that the FCC lacks the authority
or ability under current law to preserve universal service, to enact
consumer safeguards and to address other specific problems that
the FCC and parties will identify in the VoIP NPRM docket.
Local Government, therefore,urges the Congress to direct that the
FCC refrain from any classification of VoIP as an interstate information
service until the Congress may ensure that such a classification
does not undermine other national policy goals.
We want to thank the committee for the opportunity
to share our views and concerns.
- In re AT&T Petition for Declaratory Ruling That AT&T’s
Phone-to-Phone IP Telephony Services Are Exempt From Access Charges,
WC Docket No. 02-361 (filed October 18, 2002); In re Petition
for Declaratory Ruling That Pulver.coms Free World Dialup Is Neither
Telecommunications Nor a Telecommunications Service, WC Docket
No. 03-45 (filed February 5, 2003); In the Matter of Vonage Holdings
Corporation Petition for Declaratory Ruling Concerning an Order
of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, WC Docket No. 03-211
(filed September 22, 2003); In re BellSouth’s Request for
Declaratory Ruling that State Commissions May Not Regulate Broadband
Internet Access Services by Requiring BellSouth to Provide Such
Services to CLEC Voice Customers, WC Docket No. 03-251 (filed
December 9, 2003); In re Petition of Level 3 for Forbearance from
Assessment of Access Charges on Voice-Embedded IP Communications,
WC Docket No. 03-266 (filed December 23, 2003) (collectively,
- Local government is not the only party that feels that the Commission’s
logic in the Cable Modem matter was erroneous as the 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals overturned the decision, yet the Commission continued
moving forward in this matter undeterred by the clear statement
of the 9th Circuit that cable modem services are telecommunications
services subject tot Title II oversight
- Local government would call to your attention the Comments
of the Department of Justice and FBI in the various VoIP dockets
as well as in the Cable Modem matter currently before the 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals.
- While we have not seen the VoIP NPRM, in their comments outlining
its contents, the Commissioners did not reference a discussion
on any of these items.
- In support of this concern, Local Government requested that
the Commission first complete its work on the overall treatment
of VoIP before considering individual petitions. The Federal Communications
Commission rejected this request and on February 18, 2004 issued
its order in the Pulver “Free World Dial Up” petition.