State's Regulatory Sights Set on Internet Phone

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Michigan's Public Service Commission wants to have regulatory authority over the rapidly growing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service that uses a broadband Internet connection to place and receive phone calls.

The commission, meeting last week in Lansing, sent a formal request to the Legislature to amend the state's Telecommunications Act to include VoIP service as an area the commission can oversee.

"Michigan residents using Voice over Internet Protocol deserve consumer protections," said commission Chairman J. Peter Lark. "Because the Michigan Telecommunications Act is silent on Voice over Internet Protocol service ... customers using this new technology do not have consumer protections that telecommunication customers have."

Michigan is not alone in putting VoIP in its regulatory sights. But based on the experiences of Minnesota and California, it may encounter some stiff opposition from the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC successfully fought both states in federal courts in recent months, essentially arguing that VoIP is an interstate service beyond state control. Still, facing a pile of complaints from landline phone companies that claim VoIP interlopers are getting an unfair advantage, the FCC has since agreed to reconsider its hands-off approach and is seeking public comments on possible VoIP regulation.

In Michigan, meanwhile, officials believe it is necessary for the state to provide consumer safeguards over what is a largely unregulated business.

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How to Distribute VoIP Throughout a Home:

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If you live in Michigan, subscribe to the MI-Telecom group:
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Jack Decker
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