With a number of petitions and appeals being made by various companies, the FCC has remained quite mum. Yes, the government agency has shown an increased interest in VoIP, and it has even made some moves to better regulate the service. Yet, despite this, the agency’s overall presence has still yet to be firmly established. Now, things look set to change. In response to a recent petition—made by VoIP providers—a number of proposals have been produced suggesting VoIP providers be given direct access to the National Numbers Pool.

Currently, providers need to go through intermediate parties—Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs)—to obtain these numbers; however, these providers no longer want to do this. So, in presenting their case to the FCC, the government agency has seemingly begun work on a solution—i.e allowing VoIP providers direct access to the National Numbers Pool. Over the past few months the FCC has had a sordid relationship with the VoIP industry. As such, the agency has generally sought to have a more active hand in VoIP by implementing more rigid regulations. That being said, it’s not surprising to see the FCC develop proposals regarding VoIP providers and the National Numbers Pool. A commission of the FCC has even stated, “Allowing VoIP providers to obtain telephone numbers directly, and nor through intermediate providers, as is generally the case today, has the potential to fuel innovation and promote competition, at the same time we ensure calls are routed reliably and efficiently, protect public safety, and guard against exhaust of limited numbers.”

With this, it’s clear that the FCC is ready to act on their previous interests. At the head of all of this is FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski. Genachowski, along with the commission’s comments (to Politico) above, believes that modifying the phone number rule would introduce new innovation. With this innovation, the FCC is able to combat users’ fears of more rigid regulation. One of the major fears attached to increased FCC regulation with VoIP is a disinterest, or stunting, of the service’s growth; however, with budding innovations to spark interest, growth is sure to follow. Subsequently, the FCC has seemingly found a way to better implement their presence without hindering growth for the VoIP industry.  

Though the solution seems hopeful for most parties, nothing is set in stone. Instead, the FCC chairman wants to launch a trial period through a pilot program that “would test VoIP providers’ having direct access to the numbers pool and launch a probe into how phone numbers are currently managed.” Aside from a trial run though, there are other factors to consider. In 2005 Vonage issued a similar petition to the FCC’s proposal; however, the CLECs opposed the petition. Last year, Vonage reached out to the FCC again—this time stating the benefits of reducing hand-off numbers (improved quality, reduced delay, etc.). Despite this, executives with one CLEC reached out to the FCC stating, “there are no ‘special circumstances’ to support Vonage’s or any other provider’s waiver request, and granting such a waiver would tear at the fabric of ongoing and future rule makings to establish the baseline ground rules for that transition.” With that said, the FCC may face opposition in implementing their proposal—furthermore, they may reconsider after reassessing CLECs’ claims. Though the provider has made some moves to further regulation, this seems to be the most active the agency has been. Again, while no decision has been made, the FCC appears set on at least testing an alternative method.

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