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Wood Asserts Calif. PUC Has A Role In VoIP's Future

California PUC commissioner Carl Wood said social needs must be accounted for, and paid for, by participants in the telecom and VoIP service arenas.

As the lone voice for regulation in a sea of free-market sharks, you had to feel a bit sorry for California PUC Commissioner Carl Wood Monday morning.

Even though he was outnumbered, Wood held his ground during a state-regulation panel at the VON (Voice on the Net) show at the Santa Clara Convention Center, giving more than a few solid reasons why he thinks some regulation and taxes are necessary as the communications world melds with the largely unregulated arena of IP broadband applications.

"I have the feeling that I was invited so you can put a face on the enemy," joked Woods, who was preceded by a range of speakers both from vendors and from other political entities who all seemed to call for little or light regulation of VoIP and other emerging services. But regulation, Woods contended, is not necessarily bad, and does not exist simply for its own sake.

"The purpose of regulation is an attempt to accommodate social goals," Wood said, using meat inspection as an example of regulation that does not inhibit competition in the industry it affects, while producing real, important results for consumers.

In the communications arena, Wood said, if technologies like VoIP aren't taxed or regulated, they have the potential to rapidly eliminate the source of funding that states like California use to provide service to low-income and rural residents. "It costs money to provide [those services], and the money has to come from somewhere," Wood said. "And there's not a lot of indication that the market is willing [to provide the money by itself]."

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