Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Wisconsin enters VoIP fray | CNET News.com

Wisconsin enters VoIP fray | CNET News.com: "Wisconsin enters VoIP fray
By Jim Hu
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

Wisconsin regulators have informed Santa Clara, Calif.-based 8x8 that its Packet8 Internet voice-calling service is subject to the same rules as traditional phone companies, marking the second major move by a state against Internet-based phone operators.
The company said that the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (WPSC) informed it by letter last week that 8x8 cannot provide voice-calling services within Wisconsin without the commission's certification, and that Packet8's bills for all voice calls within the state are void.
Wisconsin's letter signals increasing regulatory scrutiny of Internet voice calling, and follows a similar warning issued to voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider Vonage in Minnesota last month. Michigan's Public Utilities Commission ordered that New Jersey-based company to immediately pay fees to support 911 service.

A representative for 8x8 said Wisconsin's interpretation of its Packet8 service goes beyond VoIP, with wide ramifications for Internet-based services in general.
The WPSC 'could potentially regulate e-mail because they don't distinguish between data communication and telephone communication,' Huw Rees, a spokesman for 8x8 said. 'It seems to be a lot of confusion to how and whether or not to regulate these types of services.'
Rees said 8x8 will respond to the WPSC within 30 days.
The decisions strike at the heart of an increasingly controversial question concerning VoIP services: Should phone calls that use the Internet rather than the traditional public telephone network be regulated as a telecommunications service or an Internet service?
Consumer VoIP services are still in the"


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