FCC Grants Internet Phone Access

By Molly Peterson
Bloomberg News
Friday, March 2, 2007

Rural telephone companies must allow carriers such as Verizon Communications to use local lines to connect Internet-based calls, U.S. regulators said yesterday.

The Federal Communications Commission ruling, in granting a petition filed by Time Warner Cable, "will enhance consumers' choice for phone service by making clear that cable and other [Internet phone] providers must be . . . allowed to put calls through to other phone networks," FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin said in an e-mailed statement.

AT&T and Verizon, the two biggest U.S. phone companies, supported Time Warner Cable's petition.

The FCC order overrides rulings by state regulators in South Carolina and Nebraska that barred certain carriers from connecting calls using voice-over-Internet protocol, or VOIP, to traditional local phone lines. The South Carolina regulators said Verizon had no right to route Internet-based phone calls through lines owned by rural-phone companies as part of a wholesale service it sells to Time Warner Cable, a unit of Time Warner Inc.

The state rulings would have impeded phone competition, the commission said in its decision. They also would have hindered the deployment of high-speed Internet access, the FCC said.

Cable companies have invested more than $100 billion on broadband networks "to offer consumers a wide array of new services, and this action will speed the rollout of digital voice service in many more markets," said Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

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