Level 3 Communications today filed a forbearance petition at the FCC. [Not posted yet.] The petition asks the FCC to forbear, to the extent legally applicable, from imposing access charges on voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calls. Specifically, Level 3 wants the FCC to forbear from requiring access charges for IP-PSTN and incidental PSTN-PSTN VoIP. [Note to the uninitiates: access charges are the wildly-inflated charges that long distance carriers pay to local exchange carriers to originate or terminate calls, and which in fact act as a subsidy to keep local monthly rates artificially low. Clear now, isn't it?]
The petition is important because it cements the growing consensus that VoIP be able to escape the legacy regulatory world of access charges and other traditional telecom taxes. It also would give the FCC an opportunity to further develop its Section 10 forbearance authority, a power falling into unfortunate desuetude. It will be interesting to see if there is any support for this petition (other than from pipsqueak, cheerleading think-tankers like me, that is). The other good thing about a forbearance petition is that it forces the FCC to act within one year (light-speed for them), or the petition is granted.