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PA Bulletin, Doc. No. 03-965


Investigation into Voice over Internet Protocol as a Jurisdictional Service

[33 Pa.B. 2449]

Public Meeting held
May 1, 2003

Commissioners Present: Glen R. Thomas, Chairperson; Robert K. Bloom, Vice Chairperson; Aaron Wilson, Jr.; Terrance J. Fitzpatrick; Kim Pizzingrilli

Investigation into Voice over Internet Protocol as a Jurisdictional Service; Doc. No. M-00031707


By the Commission:

   Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a relatively new technology that allows real-time audio (that is, voice) to be transmitted and received in a digital format, through the use of IP data packet transmission.1 Although voice communications using VoIP can be accomplished via the Internet by using two personal computers equipped with microphones, the Internet is not necessary, or even preferred, for a VoIP network. Other networks such as the cable television network can also be used. Thus, VoIP appears to be a potential facilities-based alternative to both traditional wireline and wireless telecommunications service. In fact, Vonage Holdings Corp., a New Jersey corporation, holds itself out as currently offering IP-based voice service in six Commonwealth Numbering Plan Areas.

   The development of VoIP service raises numerous issues for regulators, including but not limited to significant jurisdictional issues at both the State and Federal level. As a threshold matter, this Commission must decide whether we have jurisdiction to regulate VoIP service in this Commonwealth, and if jurisdiction exists, whether we should exercise it. To inform the Commission's judgment, we hereby request comment from consumers, the telecommunications industry and any other interested parties on the following aspects of VoIP, although we are seeking all relevant input. If you are neither a provider nor a user of VoIP service, we ask that your comments describe your other association with VoIP and explain the relevancy of your knowledge and/or experience to this investigation.

Defining VoIP Service

   1.  How do you define VoIP service?

   2.  Are there different types of VoIP service?

   3.  With the different types of VoIP service, is it the technology, i.e., the type of network used for transport that distinguishes them?2 Do you agree with the differences in CommWeb's definitions of ''VoIP'' and ''IP telephony'' used in footnote two below? Please explain.

Provider and End User Experience with VoIP Service

   4.  As a provider, do you offer VoIP service to the public in Pennsylvania or in other jurisdictions? If so, what type of VoIP service do you provide and where? If not, do you intend to offer VoIP service to the public in Pennsylvania or in any other jurisdiction? If so, what type of VoIP service do you intend to offer and where?

   5.  As a provider, have you conducted or do you intend to conduct any VoIP service trials in Pennsylvania or elsewhere? Please provide the details of any trials (when the trial occurred, who participated, the results, et al.) that have been conducted in Pennsylvania or in any other jurisdiction or that you plan on conducting in Pennsylvania.

   6.  As a user, have you participated in or been solicited to participate in a VoIP service trial? If so, what was your experience? Did you retain your wireline and/or wireless service while using VoIP service?

   7.  From the end user's perspective, what are the advantages, if any, of VoIP service as compared to traditional wireline and/or wireless communication voice services? What, if any, are the disadvantages?

   8.  Does VoIP service require access to the Network Interface Device (NID) or other demarcation device that is typically installed at the customer's premises? If not, what type of equipment is installed at the customer interface to provide VoIP service and how is such equipment powered?

   9.  What type of equipment does a VoIP end-user need to make calls? Is such equipment commercially available through only the VoIP provider or is it available elsewhere as well?

Commission Jurisdiction to Regulate VoIP Service

   10.  Are VoIP services the ''conveying or transmitting messages or communications by telephone or telegraph or domestic public land mobile radio service for the public for compensation'' pursuant to 66 Pa.C.S. § 102? Please explain.

   11.  What is the relationship, if any, between VoIP services and ''mobile domestic cellular radio telecommunications service'' exempted from PUC regulation at 66 Pa.C.S. § 102? Please explain.

   12.  Or, is VoIP service an ''information service'' pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 153? If so, what are the regulatory implications of such a classification and how do you reconcile it with the fact that VoIP service originates as voice and terminates as voice?

   13.  Have any other states addressed state jurisdiction over VoIP service? Please cite and discuss any proceedings that have concluded and/or are currently pending in other states that address or relate to state jurisdiction to regulate VoIP service.

   14.  Assuming arguendo that the Commission possesses jurisdiction over VoIP service, should it exercise such jurisdiction? Please explain why or why not.

The Extent of Commission Jurisdiction Over VoIP Service

   15.  Would a VoIP service provider be subject to the same certification and tariff requirements that exist for traditional wireline carriers? Would a VoIP provider be required to file with the Commission for entrance into the market as a CLEC or other authority?

   16.  Would the inter-carrier compensation regimes that apply to traditional wireline carriers using the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) apply to VoIP providers? Would a Local Exchange Carrier be compensated (reciprocal compensation or access charges) for transporting/terminating a VoIP call? How would inter-carrier compensation work for a VoIP provider that transports/terminates calls from other carriers?

   17.  Would (1) 911; (2) Telephone Relay Service; (3) Lifeline and Link-Up; and (4) universal service obligations that apply to traditional wireline carriers using the PSTN apply to VoIP providers?

   18.  Do the networks of VoIP providers support public services like 911?

   19.  Please explain when, if ever, the PSTN is used to provide VoIP service and how a VoIP provider would interconnect with the PSTN. Would the interconnection rules under 47 U.S.C. § 251 that apply to traditional wireline carriers using the PSTN also apply to VoIP providers?

   20.  Please explain how a telephone number or the equivalent would be used by a VoIP provider. If applicable, how would a VoIP provider acquire a telephone number? Would number portability exist between traditional wireline carrier and VoIP provider telephone numbers?

   21.  Would VoIP providers be required to maintain or provide directory information for use in a standard telephone directory?

   22.  What, if any, Quality of Service standards should apply to VoIP service as compared to traditional telephone service? (See 52 Pa. Code §§ 63.53-.64). Please explain how reasonable standards should be established for quality standards that do not exist for traditional calls but are typical for VoIP calls (e.g., latency, echo, doubletalk, etc.).

   23.  How, if at all, does VoIP service affect the FCC's jurisdictional separations process? In order to account for VoIP traffic, what kind of changes, if any, are needed with respect to the FCC's existing rules and procedures for designating calls as interstate or intrastate?

FCC Jurisdiction to Regulate VoIP Service

   24.  Has the FCC addressed whether it has jurisdiction over VoIP service? Please cite and discuss any proceedings that have concluded and/or are currently pending before the FCC that address or relate to the FCC's jurisdiction to regulate VoIP service.

   25.  If the FCC has determined that it has jurisdiction over VoIP service, has the FCC exercised such jurisdictional authority? Please cite and discuss any proceedings where the FCC has exercised such jurisdiction.

   26.  If applicable, would the FCC's jurisdiction be exclusive? Please explain why or why not.

   27.  What other VoIP-related issue(s), if any, are relevant to the Commission's investigation of VoIP service initiated? Please limit your response to no more than 1,500 words.

   We request that comments be written in plain English. Particularly with technical issues, explanations should be sufficiently detailed to adequately explain the relevant concepts and should be written in a manner that allows individuals with nontechnical backgrounds to comprehend. Furthermore, we request that commenters reference their responses so as to correspond with the specific questions posed in this Order; Therefore,

It Is Ordered That:

   1.  Public comment is invited on the Commission's jurisdiction to regulate VoIP service in this Commonwealth.

   2.  Comments regarding this Order be filed with the Commission no later than 45 days after this Order is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Reply comments are due 30 days thereafter.

   3.  A copy of this Order be served on Vonage Holdings Corp., the Pennsylvania Telephone Association, the Pennsylvania Cable & Telecommunications Association, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, the Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of Small Business Advocate, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the North American Number Plan Administrator and be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.


[Pa.B. Doc. No. 03-965. Filed for public inspection May 16, 2003, 9:00 a.m.]


1 A packet is the fundamental unit of information transmitted over a network or over a digital communication link. With data packets, data is broken up in small and uniform packets, numbered and transmitted. Because each packet is numbered, each packet can travel different paths through the network. Once the packets arrive at the receiving end, the packets are realigned in numerical order and the original data is extracted in the original format. With VoIP, the voice is digitalized before the data packets are formed and sent. Then, at the destination, the VoIP packets are unpacketized and the digital data stream is reconverted into voice. VoIP data packets use Transmission Control Protocol or IP, like the Internet, as the transport mechanism to reach their destination.

2 The Commission notes the difference between the common usage of the terms ''VoIP'' and ''IP Telephony.'' CommWeb ( explains that the term VoIP is used when the transport of the communication is over a private intranet or Wide Area Network. However, when the transport is the public Internet or the Internet backbone from a major carrier, it is generally called ''IP telephony'' or ''Internet Telephony.'' At any rate, CommWeb notes that the terms IP telephony, Internet telephony and VoIP are often used interchangeably. For purposes of this Order, the Commission's reference to ''VoIP voice service'' is meant to include both ''VoIP'' and ''IP telephony.''

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