Rep. Fred Upton apparently sold out to incumbent telcos

A disturbing final paragraph in this article, which starts out telling the oft-told story of how a Houston family apparently didn't understand that their VoIP service doesn't come with 911 service (probably didn't bother to read the numerous warnings most VoIP companies give when you sign up), but then progresses to say this:

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Since then, the FCC has ruled that VoIP is an interstate service not subject to state rules and regulations, and that companies providing Internet telephony must comply with federal wiretap requirements. The agency is still studying the 911 obligations of VoIP carriers and the potential contributions carriers might be required to make to the Universal Service Fund.

"VoIP is still in its infancy and the regulatory ground upon which VoIP stands is not as firm as I think it needs to be in order that it reaches its projected potential," Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the subcommittee, said. "I would note that only seven individuals -- five FCC commissioners and two federal district court judges -- stood in the way of VoIP potentially being regulated by 51 state public utility commissions." [End quote from end of article at

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The fortunate thing is that Rep. Upton's views are probably in the minority, but I fear that the incumbent telco lobbyists are working furiously behind the scenes to try and get VoIP hobbled by state regulations. That would kill many of the smaller VoIP companies, and maybe all of them that don't have a presence in every state. We do NOT need regulation by state public utility regulators, and given the way the Michigan Public Service Commission has f***ed up expanded local calling, there is no way in hell I want them regulating VoIP. As far as I am concerned, the FCC is absolutely on the right track in exercising federal oversight of VoIP and pre-empting the states - it would be a disaster to VoIP to be subjected to individual state regulation.

Those of you who live Rep. Upton's district in southwest Michigan (basically the Kalamazoo area and southwest) might want to write him or e-mail him and ask him to stop selling out to the incumbent telcos. Let him know that you don't want additional regulation and costs added to VoIP. His contact info is on this page:

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The issue of 911 is important but it will not be resolved immediately -- it took the cellular telephone industry a couple of decades to get the kinks worked out (some cell phone companies still don't offer "enhanced" 911), and since talks are already in progress between the major VoIP companies and the organization representing 911 centers, I am sure that most VoIP companies will offer 911 sooner rather than later. The FCC can facilitate this by putting its blessing on one nationwide scheme for VoIP connecting to 911, whereas if every state commission tries to regulate this, a VoIP company located in Nerw Jersey or California may be told they have to deal with over 50 different 911 connection mandates.

So I believe that Rep. Upton's comments have nothing to do with 911 and everything with who is pumping money into his election campaign.

According to

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SBC and Verizon were among his top contributors (SBC was his top contributor, while Verizon tied for the #6 slot. Also, Comcast Corp. and the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. both tied for the #3 slot, and even when cable operators offer VoIP they often register as CLEC's and have a local presence in each state, and therefore might not oppose regulation that impedes independent VoIP, which does not have facilities in every state in the union).

One other thing, I have been warning that attempts at individual state regulation could backfire, since VoIP companies can move offshore and out of reach of any U.S. regulation. For example, a VoIP company located in Canada or England could probably still buy U.S. numbers for incoming calls from CLEC's, and still complete calls to the U.S. at wholesale rates about the same as what they are paying now. If you don't think this is true, consider that when the instant messaging program ICQ first started out, its servers were in Israel, and had the U.S. attempted to impose excessive regulation or taxation on instant messaging it's quite likely that the servers (and the company) would have stayed there.

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Jack Decker
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