VoIP Termination Squabble

Peter : On Rad's Radar?
| Peter Radizeski of RAD-INFO, Inc. talking telecom, Cloud, VoIP, CLEC, and The Channel.

VoIP Termination Squabble

On April 5, 2012, Sprint filed a petition for declaratory ruling raising a number of issues concerning the applicability of tariffed access rates to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-originated calls. (Issues that the FCC should have already put to bed!) Basically, "Sprint is asking the FCC to decide whether it should pay CenturyLink for VoIP long-distance traffic. The question stems from a long-running federal lawsuit - filed in Nov. 2009 - CenturyLink filed against Sprint to enforce access tariffs on VoIP-originated calls." [fiercetelecom]

One of Sprint's points is: "because the VoIP originated traffic is jurisdictionally interstate, intrastate access tariffs cannot impose compensation obligations with respect to that traffic, even if those calls originate and terminate in the same state."

This issue was sort of addressed in 2010.

Kelley Drye explains it: "On February 18, 2010, a federal district court stepped in to fill the gap left by the FCC's silence on the issue of whether transmission of Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP")-originated calls is an information service exempt from access charges or a telecommunications service subject to access charges. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia in PAETEC Communications, Inc. v. CommPartners, LLC held that the transmission and net protocol conversion of VoIP-originated calls is an information service not subject to access charges and that a tariff imposing such charges is ultra vires and lacks legal force."

VoIP Logic points out that "the Court supported application of the FCC's $0.0007 reciprocal compensation cap, an amount to be paid for local traffic exchange between networks."

Other rulings have conflicted including the Pennsylvania PUC ruling. More importantly, "U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reached an opposite conclusion in a suit pitting VoIP provider GlobalNAPs, Inc." against MetTel on March 31, 2010. "While acknowledging the findings in the CommPartners case, the court found that an inability to apply the tariff regime as did not preclude MetTel's entitlement to recover in equity for costs it assumed in terminating Global's traffic, and concluded that GlobalNAPs was not entitled to "unjust enrichment," e.g. was required to compensate MetTel for access." [VoIP Logic] GlobalNAPs petitioned the FCC for a ruling in 2010. The FCC has waffled as per usual.

They even waffled within months of each order. In October of 2011, this order was released with the Connect America Fund order. Then on April 25, 2012, the FCC released a revised Connect America Fund Order that revised the ICC/USF Reform. This order "permits local exchange carriers (LECs) to impose higher charges for originating intra-state toll calls that begin or end in VoIP format. Previously, in its USF/ICC Transformation Order the FCC determined that effective Dec. 29, 2011, originating access charges for such intrastate toll calls would be capped at the level of the LEC's normally lower interstate charges." JDSupra continues to explain, "The FCC's new decision establishes a transitional rate rule, under which intrastate VoIP toll traffic will be subject to intrastate rates for approximately two years." It all comes down to tariff rates, which, contrary to popular belief, can be updated at any time by the carrier and just need to be filed to be effective. (So when they hide behind the tariff, they are just saying they don't want to.)

If you are confused, you are not alone. Hence, why Sprint is petitioning the FCC. Maybe some day it will finally be settled.

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