Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project
VoIP: Discontinuance of Service Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY

In the FCC's IP Enabled Services Proceeding, the FCC asked

72. Second, we seek comment regarding a number of other consumer protections set forth in the Act and Commission rules. For example, section 214 of the Act requires common carriers to obtain Commission authorization before constructing, acquiring, operating or engaging in transmission over lines of communications, or discontinuing, reducing or impairing telecommunications service to a community.

On May 13, the FCC under Acting Chair Copps voted to impose Sec. 214 non dominate obligations for discontinuance of service on "Interconnected VoIP Service."

"The Commission expanded consumer protections for customers of interconnected VoIP providers. Interconnected VoIP providers are those whose customers can place calls to and receive calls from the public telephone network, rather than solely over the Internet.

"These providers are now required to notify customers before they discontinue, reduce or impair service, as conventional providers currently must do. Interconnected VoIP providers can no longer close shop without notice, leaving customers unexpectedly without phone service or recourse.

"Consumers are increasingly using interconnected VoIP to replace analog voice service, and their expectations for notice, access to emergency 911 service and other consumer protections are the same as users of conventional voice service, the Commission found. Public Notice WORD


1. Today's telecommunications marketplace is one of rapidly changing technology, capability, and services. Since the Commission first described Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled services over five years ago, the American public has embraced them, resulting in the widespread adoption of mass market interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and broadband services by millions of consumers for voice, video, and Internet communications. The rapid growth and ubiquity of these services raise important consumer protection issues for millions of Americans.

2. Consumers increasingly use interconnected VoIP service as a replacement for traditional voice service, and as interconnected VoIP service improves and proliferates, consumers' expectations for this type of service trend toward their expectations for other telephone services. Thus, in this Report and Order (Order), we take steps to protect consumers of interconnected VoIP service from the abrupt discontinuance, reduction, or impairment of their service without notice. Specifically, we extend to providers of interconnected VoIP service the discontinuance obligations that apply to domestic non-dominant telecommunications carriers under section 214 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act). Consequently, before an interconnected VoIP provider may discontinue service, it must comply with the streamlined discontinuance requirements under Part 63 of the Commission's rules, including the requirements to provide written notice to all affected customers, notify relevant state authorities, and file an application for authorization of the planned discontinuance with the Commission.

3. It is important to note that we do not impose any economic regulation on providers of interconnected VoIP service by our actions today. Title II and the Commission's rules subject all common carriers to a variety of non-economic regulations designed to further important public policy goals and protect consumers, and the Commission has stated previously that it "will not hesitate to adopt any non-economic regulatory obligations that are necessary to ensure consumer protection and network security and reliability in this dynamically changing broadband era." Included among these are the obligations we impose today on providers of interconnected VoIP service, which serve as important consumer protection measures. Order WORD





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