VoIP ACCESS FEE DECISION DELAYED BY LEVEL 3
A much-anticipated ruling to determine whether voice-over-IP providers have to pay incumbents to connect to their networks has been delayed, thanks to a decision from Level 3 Communications to withdraw its request for the FCC to prevent imposing access fees on Internet telephony.
Level 3 had waited 364 days after filing its petition for forbearance to get a decision, but apparently picked up the scent of changing winds with the FCC, following the departure of VoIP champion and former FCC Chairman Michael Powell a week earlier. Rumors had swirled throughout Washington that a Powell-less FCC would rule against the Level 3 petition, paving the way for incumbent carriers to charge access fees to VoIP providers to originate and terminate calls to their customers. That would drive up the cost of service and wipe out a key advantage to Internet telephony.
“Given the appointment of new leadership only three business days before the statutory deadline for ruling on the petition, we determined it was inappropriate to ask the agency to resolve this important issue in the time frame required by law,” said Level 3 Chairman and CEO James Crowe in a prepared statement.
Other competitive players agreed that Level 3 had done the right thing, given the uncertainty of how the new commission would act. Jonathan Lee, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at CompTel/ALTS, which represents competitive carriers, added, however, that it is “unfortunate” that “the previous FCC leadership was unable to reach a consensus on this critical issue, despite having the full allotment of time allowed to consider the forbearance petition.”
The U.S. Telecom Association applauded the move, saying the FCC should address intercarrier compensation issues as a whole and not piecemeal through individual rulings.
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