May Warns of Procedural Nightmares that CAN Be Avoided
WASHINGTON, D.C. - There is no need to subject Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) - Internet voice service - to the economic regulation applied to traditional phone services. That is the plea being issued to regulators by Progress & Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow and Director of Communications Policy Studies Randolph J. May. As important, in order to avoid such an outcome, the FCC must follow a process that promotes "regulatory modesty" and "timely decision-making."
In the second of two articles on VoIP - the first focused on how the substance of the VoIP regulation debate could turn on wordplay - May focuses on procedure. He counsels against a new global rule-making proceeding to develop a regulatory framework for the VoIP technology. Instead, he argues, the same goal can be accomplished by deciding each individual petition "narrowly on its merits." However, if the FCC must establish a generic rule, "it should frame the notice not in an open-ended fashion, but rather in a much more focused way, offering specific proposals that point in a decidedly deregulatory direction.there is no need to subject VoIP services to the economic regulation applied to traditional telephone services."
May says broad rules may work for new policies applicable to entire industries. But, in cases such as VoIP, "history has shown that open-ended comment invitations encourage parties to toss everything but the kitchen sink into the rule-making stew." The result: "a lengthy period of uncertainty" and the creation of "a ready-made forum for continually offering up new facts" that may be abused by "opposing interests." In short, "an open-ended proceeding fosters a more regulatory outcome than desirable," something May believes is out of step and inimical to "a fast-changing technology environment."
"Much of the upcoming debate before federal and state regulatory authorities on whether and how VoIP should be regulated is going to be downright metaphysical," May wrote earlier in CNET
. In deciding whether VoIP is a 'telecommunications service' or an 'information service' - and, thus, subject to public utility economic regulation or not - "the contending sides will argue about many things other than the marketplace realities."
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.