Free World Dialup steers clear of high regulatory hurdles

Thu, 02/12/2004 - 7:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

The Federal Communications Commission retained its light-handed approach to VoIP, ruling that 's Free World Dialup (FWD) should be classified as an information service and, therefore, should not be weighed down by unnecessary regulation.

FWD allows users to make free phone calls over the Internet to other FWD members. Last year, filed a petition for the ruling, hoping that the FCC would rule that it is not a telecommunications service.

In other action, the FCC also launched a broad inquiry into IP-based voice services. That Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will seek public comment on a variety of issues based on the premise that Internet services should remain largely free of regulatory burdens, the FCC said.

The agency, however, intends to initiate a Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement (CALEA) rulemaking to address the high technical issues associated with law enforcement wiretaps and surveillance of IP-based services. The proceeding will address the scope of services covered and assign responsibility for compliance, and identify the wiretap capabilities required.

"Above all, law enforcement access to IP-enabled communications is essential," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a prepared statement. "CALEA requirements can and should apply to VoIP and other IP-enabled service providers, even if these services are 'information services' for purposes of the Communications Act."

To that end, the FCC said it intends to initiate a CALEA rulemaking proceeding "in the near future."


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