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Arnold Kling has a Ph.D. in economics from MIT; founded, one of the very first commercial websites, in 1994; separated from Homefair in January 2000 after it was sold to Homestore; is author of Under the Radar: Starting Your Internet Business without Venture Capital, and is an essayist. Send comments to us at

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February 12, 2004

VOIP Problematic

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Posted by Arnold

The FCC takes a first stand on telephony over the Internet. They gave a very limited go-ahead, to "pure" VOIP (which does not connect to traditional phones).

Commissioner Michael Copps opposed the decision, and Jonathan Adelstein said he partially dissented.

In a significant limitation, the decision does not address whether traditional phone regulations might apply to VoIP services that interconnect with the traditional telephone system.

So the Democrats are flat-out against letting people talk using just their computers without without incurring taxes, fees, and state and local regulation. And nobody seems comfortable with any hack that allows you to talk on a phone using a computer network without bringing on the suits.

I know I'm spitting into the wind to say this, but the supposed reason to regulate telephony in the first place is because it is allegedly a monopoly. Then, when it becomes competitive, the rationale for regulating the competitors is to make things "fair."

Logic would say that if regulate X because it's a monopoly, and then Y comes along and competes, the right answer isn't to regulate Y. It's to deregulate X. But logic isn't going to win here, is it?

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: telecom, FCC


1. John Thacker on February 13, 2004 11:37 PM writes...

Interesting that Michael Copps, one of the Democrats on the FCC, opposes this partially because it might make it too difficult to for the FBI to wiretap VoIP calls without regulation.

I do wonder what all the stridently anti-Patriot Act Democrats think about this.

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