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Group Formed To Lobby For Deregulated VoIP Market

9/29/2004 02:58:00 PM Eastern

New York — Fast on the heels of VoIP telephony’s rapid expansion into consumer retail markets, the technology has earned its very own lobbying group devoted to keeping VoIP lightly regulated in an effort to drive further adoption of broadband telephony.

Called the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), the group was officially announced this week and is chaired by Bruce Mehlman, a former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy in the current Bush administration, and Larry Irving, who served as the Clinton administration’s Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information.

“We’re excited about VoIP, and we need to counter the impression that” it’s just an incremental improvement over ordinary telephone service, Mehlman said.

VoIP is far more significant than a dial tone, Mehlman asserted. Having already ushered in enormous cost savings for business, VoIP will bestow similar blessings to consumers, in addition to freeing the American workforce for telecommunicating and driving new technologies such as videophones and interactive gaming, Mehlman said.

“There’s an old saying in Washington: ‘If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidize it.’” Breaking that cycle will be key for VoIP’s success, Melhman said.

“We did not burden the Internet with excessive regulations, and we want that same ethos to apply to VoIP,” Irving said.

Because of the rapid growth of VoIP in both enterprise and consumer markets, various states and the federal government have begun examining regulatory options centered around a variety of issues, including wiretapping, emergency 911 call reliability and taxation.

To stem the regulatory tide, the IIA elucidated a series of principles that, they argue, should govern VoIP regulation. Among them is “first, do no harm” and apply a similarly light regulatory touch as was shown to e-mail and early Internet technology. The Alliance also argued that VoIP should not be subject to regulations, such as local telephone company access subsidy charges, that could impede its deployment and adoption at such a nascent stage in its development.