Voice over the Internet: Inter-carrier Compensation Issues Create Challenges for US In-house Lawyers
R. Edward Price, Senior Counsel, Global Crossing, USA
This article discusses regulatory issues in the USA surrounding how telecommunications carriers compensate each other for terminating voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) calls. Because VoIP calls originate on a software platform, it is not clear that they are legally subject to ‘access charges’, which US long-distance carriers are required to pay to local carriers for standard long-distance and international traffic. VoIP calls arguably are exempted from access charges because they qualify as an enhanced or information service, as opposed to a telecommunications service, under US law. There are several legal and policy considerations that underlie this controversy, and in-house lawyers with US telecommunications companies have been at the forefront of all of these issues. This article provides background on inter-carrier compensation requirements in the USA, describes the legal and policy questions surrounding VoIP and how they have been, and may in the future be, dealt with in the courts and before US regulatory agencies.
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