Will FCC Soon Take a New Look at VoIP Regulation?

The FCC is none too happy with Comcast’s modifications to broadband traffic monitoring and could be on the verge of publishing new regulations designed to settle a hotly contested area of net neutrality policy, according to a new post at dslReports.

For more than a year now, Comcast has has been at the center of a storm of controversy stemming from the broadband service provider’s throttling certain kinds of internet traffic. In the wake of an FCC investigation into the matter, Comcast transitioned to a so-called “protocol agnostic” network management system, but according to a new letter (pdf), the FCC is surprised to learn Comcast’s new system impacts competiting VoIP products, but doesn’t degrade the quality of Comcast’s own Digital Voice service.

Comcast appears to want the best of both worlds, claiming that because its voice services are on a separate traffic layer from its broadband data service, the voice product is technically a telecommunications service — and subject to regulation and assorted fees. The FCC some time ago ruled cable and telco broadband were “information services,” thereby freeing them from significant regulation.

The long and short of it is that large cable and telco service providers will continue to do everything possible under the law (at least) to obtain a competitive advantage over smaller companies competing for ever fewer consumer dollars. The FCC, under outgoing Chairman Kevin Martin, has done little to clear the muddied waters regulating telecommunications and information services providers, and there should be increasing calls for a new administration to grapple with market realities and aspirations for a “neutral” Internet to set policy that does not simply favor the biggest and richest players on the field.