In a watershed, unanimous decision earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) adopted an Order to modernize and streamline its rules governing the distribution of telephone numbers by leveling the playing field for interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”) providers.
Interconnected VoIP providers currently must procure numbers from third-party local exchange carriers, licensed by the state utility commission. According to the FCC, by allowing VoIP providers to go directly to numbering administrators for phone numbers, consumers will benefit through cost savings. Moreover, the opening up of telephone number resources is expected to promote competition within the VoIP industry.
The Order also facilitates the ongoing transitions in communications technology that are sweeping the nation and improves FCC oversight of the numbering system. These improvements will help ensure that calls connect nationwide and provide more accountability in and protections for the numbering system.
Nearly one-third of all retail local telephone connections – about 48 million connections – were served by VoIP at the end of 2013. The FCC concluded that giving VoIP providers direct access to numbers will promote competitive choice for consumers, including by speeding the transfer of a customer’s existing number to or from an interconnected VoIP provider, known as “porting” a number.
Importantly, the Order also imposes a number of conditions to protect and enhance the security and integrity of the numbering system. Conditions will also ensure that all numbers distributed are used, protecting the system from running out of phone numbers.
The full text of the FCC’s Order has not yet been released, therefore details of the Commission’s decision are not yet known. For clients and interested parties seeking information about the impending new rules, please contact the attorney assigned to your account or reach out directly to Michael P. Donahue at firstname.lastname@example.org.