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Re: The %^? did it!

  • From: Robert Cannon
  • Date: Thu Jun 01 09:31:51 2000

You can learn more about the FCC's approach to IP Telephony, access charges,
and the Upton Access Charge Legislation at

The legal history behind all this goes back over 30 years and involves the
FCC's Computer Inquiry proceedings.  In about 1980, in the Computer II
proceeding, the FCC distinquished between basic telecom service and enhanced
services.  Basic services, to put it simply, is where the message travels
over the network transparent to the network - there is no interaction
between the message and the network.  With enhanced services, there is some
level of interaction between the message and the network - it "employs
computer processing applications that act on the format, content, protocol
or similar aspects of the subscriber's transmitted information."  Basic
service is regulated as telephone service under title II of the
Communications Act; Enhanced services are "unregulated" by the FCC.

If you think of the IP stack, basic service is the physical transport layer
and maybe layer 2.  Enhanced services is the TCP/IP layer and above.  This
means that applications such as IP telephony currently fall under the
category of enhanced services and are "unregulated."

When the FCC was dealing with the breakup of the ATT monopoly, the question
was, what would the lucrative long distance carriers pay to the expensive
local loops to maintain the infrastructure. The answer was metered access
charges.  In this 1980s proceeding, the FCC also considered Enhanced
Services Providers and decided that they would be exempt from the metered
access charge.  That exemption has been reaffirmed several times over the
years.  So, under current FCC policy, ISPs do not pay this metered access
charge.  The policy was based in party on the competitive, innovative, and
nascent nature of the enhanced service provider market - well remember that
one of those nascent enhanced service providers is in the midst of trying to
buy Time Warner.

As far as definitions go, the FCC has put forward a definition of IP
telephony.  Sec. 255 requires that telecommunications service providers and
manufacturers make their equipment accessible to the disabled.  In the
recent 255 proceeding, the FCC affirmed that 255 does not apply to enhanced
services (does not apply to ISPs).  However, last fall the FCC released a
Notice of Inquiry to ask what is the impact of IP telephony on the disabled
community, how is industry responding, and what is the proper roll of the
federal government.  First, I would note that while the comment period in
that proceeding is closed, you can still express your views in that
proceeding pursuant to the FCC's ex parte rules (you simply have to file a
summary of your comments with the FCC's secretary for inclusion in the
record).  I might also note that only 7 Internet parties filed comments in
that proceeding the last time I checked. More info again at

In the 255 proceeding, the FCC defined IP Telephony as follows:

"Internet Protocol telephony ("Internet" or "IP" telephony) services enable
real-time voice transmission using the Internet Protocol (IP), a
packet-switched communications protocol. The services can be provided in two
basic ways: computer-to-computer IP telephony conducted through special
software and hardware at an end user's premises; or phone-to-phone IP
telephony conducted through "gateways" that enable applications originating
and/or terminating on the public switched network. Phone-to-phone IP
telephony is provided through computer gateways that allow end users to make
and receive calls using their traditional telephones. Gateways translate the
circuit-switched voice signal into IP packets, and vice versa, and perform
associated signalling, control, and address translation functions. The voice
communications can then be transmitted along with other data on the "public"
Internet, or can be routed through intranets or other private data networks
for improved performance."

--In the matter of the Implementation of Sections 255 and 251(a)(2) of the
Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Telecommunications Act of
1996, WT Docket No. 96-198, Report And Order and Further Notice Of Inquiry, 
177 (September 29, 1999).

A final note - The Upton Access Charge Legislation was largely passed in
response to Congressman's Schnell's proposed legislation 602P to tax e-mail
or tax Internet access.  Of course, there is no Congressman Schnell; there
is no legislation 602P; there is no such format for legislation as 602P; and
there is no proposal before the US congress to tax e-mail (there is one
before the UN I believe) or access.

My views alone.  Mine! Mine! Mine!

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