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FCC Says AT&T Must Pay For Voice Traffic Over IP Backbone

The Federal Communications Commission Wednesday denied a petition by AT&T that sought to declare backbone IP voice traffic as a service that should be free of access charges.

In their opinions on the unanimous decision, the FCC commissioners were careful to note that the ruling was specific to AT&T's petition, which they said was concerned only with the use of IP technology as part of the backbone transmission of normal phone connections.

Earlier this year, the FCC determined
that the computer-to-computer Free World Dialup VoIP service should not be regulated. But any services that interact with the public switched telephone network -- as AT&T's does -- are likely to still be seen as regulated services that must pay access fees, at least until the FCC comes up with a better idea.

AT&T's petition, originally filed in 2002, asked for a declaratory ruling to make its IP-based voice traffic free of access charges, fees AT&T must pay to local telephone operators to complete its calls. The FCC, however, disagreed, calling AT&T's service a normal voice service that just happened to use IP technology in the middle.

Even though it calls for AT&T to pay access fees for its current service, Wednesday's ruling may not be the final word in regulation for IP-to-PSTN traffic, as FCC chairman Michael Powell noted in his personal opinion on the ruling.

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