It will probably be some time before the FCC can piece through the myriad issues it must address to set the regulatory framework for voice over the Internet. But the Commission deserves a hearty pat on the back for its work on its Order preempting state regulation of Vonage's "DigitalVoice" service. The Order's thorough and compelling reasoning issues a stiff rebuke to those who wish to regulate Internet voice applications because they "quack" like the "duck" of traditional telephony. Among other things, the Order emphasizes how very different (and superior) the service is, both in terms of how it works and in terms of what it offers consumers.
The FCC also deserves kudos for signaling that it will preclude states from over-regulating similar services where a company provides the service over its own "last mile" broadband network (see para. 46). Throw in a prudent nod to states that the FCC expects to work cooperatively with them to safeguard interests such as public safety (para. 45), and the FCC has provided a constructive roadmap for tackling the remaining regulatory issues pertaining to Internet voice. (The welcome sway held by wiser heads in recent state discussions of Internet voice suggest states may be willing to follow that roadmap, at least for now. Lexis subscription required or see Nov. 16, 2004 edition of Comm Daily.)
So even if the FCC did not go as far as I had hoped last month, it has provided a great deal to be thankful for well before the holidays. With any luck, the appellate courts will be similarly thankful.