Senate Witnesses Diverge On VoIP Regulation

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Greg Galitzine

Senate Witnesses Diverge On VoIP Regulation

Members of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation heard testimony on Wednesday, June 16 regarding “The VoIP Regulatory Freedom Act of 2004” (S. 2281) — legislation introduced by Senator John Sununu of New Hampshire, the purpose of which is to enable growth of VoIP by protecting the burgeoning technology from the heavy-hand of federal and state regulation.

Among the witnesses speaking before the Committee, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Laura Parsky told the Senate Commerce Committee that unregulated VoIP would be a “haven” for terrorists unless the government forces service providers to build special wiretapping capabilities into their systems.

“If legal loopholes allow criminals to use new technologies to avoid law enforcement detection, they would use these technologies to coordinate terrorist attacks, to sell drugs throughout the United States and to pass along national security secrets to our enemies,” Parsky said.

Speaking in favor of limiting regulation, James X. Dempsey, Executive Director Center for Democracy & Technology, stated, “The Internet and applications like VOIP … are different from traditional telecommunications services, so significantly different that they have not been and should not be regulated under the traditional regulatory framework for telecommunications. For reasons that are still valid today, the Internet and Internet applications were not included in the regulatory mandates of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (CALEA).”

As a proponent of VoIP, I believe that a hands-off approach is best policy for the time being. All too often government — even with the best of intentions — creates laws and regulations that end up stifling opportunity and promoting the interests of industry lobbies who have clout in D.C.. The best thing that can happen for our industry is to allow the vendor community to come up with solutions that meet a predefined set of requirements laid out by government. Often, when faced with challenges, the best solutions arise when market forces conspire to achieve the desired result.

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