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CWA Argues Telecom Status For VoIP

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to treat VoIP as a telecommunications service, placing itself in opposition to much of the industry, which wants Internet telephoning to be classified as a data service.

In a filing Monday, the CWA said: "The FCC's starting point simply must be this: that VoIP is a telecommunications service and therefore subject to the same regulations that govern other telecommunications services providers--including universal service support, emergency and public safety access, consumer protections and disability access."

As much of the telecommunications industry rushes to implement VoIP, a debate has broken out over regulatory issues. On one side, industry and business generally argue that VoIP should be classified as a data service-and, thus, free of most regulation and taxes--because it travels as data over the Internet. Conversely, the CWA and many consumer groups argue that VoIP should be classified as a telecommunications service, as most telephoning is today.

In its filing with the FCC, the CWA said VoIP would provide a range of benefits, but the trade union indicated it wanted to ensure that the "commitment to universal service" be maintained.

Noting that Internet-telephone services are highly competitive, the CWA said that "there is no need for the FCC to impose rate regulation or other unnecessary regulations at this time. However, a role for state regulatory commissions, in partnership with the FCC, should continue."