Friday, June 11, 2010

Colorado Governor Vetoes VoIP Deregulation Bill

On June 7th, the Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, Jr. , sent a veto message regarding House Bill 10-1281 which would have permanently exempted Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP") providers from regulation by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission ("PUC"), including the voice telephone services offered by the cable companies. Citing activity at the FCC regarding the proper regulatory treatment of VoIP, Ritter stated that it would be "unwise" to be "presumptively barring the State from regulating VoIP at this time." PULP couldn't agree more.

The Governor added:
As this progression from landlines to VoIP occurs, Colorado cannot be left without the power to regulate such an important technology. Should the need arise, regardless of movement at the federal level, the PUC must have the latitude and authority to regulate the price, quality of service, and availability of VoIP in order to prevent significant harm to the consumers of this State.
There are bills similar to the Colorado bill all over the country, mostly endorsed by the incumbent landline telephone carriers who are looking to expand their VoIP offerings and thus escape state regulation. The end result of such an approach would be that the state commission would have no authority over the providers and their customers would not be protected with telephone service quality standards, consumer protections, and affordability requirements. We're well on that way here in New York with VoIP providers and wireless companies taking away half of the incumbent's access lines. So, even in New York, our state Commission no longer exercises jurisdiction over half the market it was created to protect. In contrast, Maine is considering action to protect users of telephone service receiving it through the alternative VoIP technology.

What New York needs is not a VoIP deregulation bill, but a VoIP explicit regulation bill, one where it plainly states that VoIP is covered by the same rules and regulations as companies like Verizon. We should not be put in a position where customer protections are gradually eliminated due to a technological change or the only thing protecting telephony consumers is the possibility of the governor waiving his veto pen.


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