The Network of Today
With the advent of the Internet, the spokes of technology have accelerated, thus increasing the likelihood of de-synchronization and a slip error. In 2004, the FCC was faced with deciding whether nomadic interconnected VoIP services (e.g., Vonage) could be jurisdictionally divided. It concluded that because people could travel between states with their IP devices, it was impossible to determine whether a call was intrastate or interstate. As such, states could not regulate nomadic interconnected VoIP services. Surprisingly, in 2010 the FCC reversed its decision. What changed? Only that states placed enough pressure on the FCC because universal service coffers were depleting. What is likely to ensue is a battle between state commissions and the FCC regarding the jurisdictional nature of VoIP and other IP-enabled services.
Towards the Future
While the regulation of certain telecommunications elements needs to remain localized, the bulk of the regulation should be placed under the FCC. Consumer protection, rights-of-way, emergency response and universal service subsidies should remain local issues, but telecommunications policy should move under one policy leader. The AT&T monopoly has been broken, the network has been digitized, intelligence has moved to the edges of the network, traffic has been packetized and 1934 has long gone. It is time to rethink our regulation model.
Raul Magallanes runs a Houston-based law firm focusing on telecommunications law. He may be reached at +1 (281) 317-1397 or by email at raul@ rmtelecomlaw.com.