Sununu: IP Community Should Speak Up

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina communication problems, Sen. John Sununu says IP advocates have an important story to tell.

By Colin C. Haley | Posted Sep 19, 2005
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BOSTON -- When Hurricane Katrina knocked out landlines and cell phones, city officials in New Orleans turned to VoIP to get the word out.

IP advocates should remind legislators and policy makers of that as future rules for IP services are being developed, U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu (R-NH) said in a speech at the Voice Over Net (VON) show here today.

"For all the money we spent -- and it's billions -- on communications since Sept. 11, it appears there were significant interoperability problems," Sununu said. "It is important for the IP community to step forward and fairly level criticism where it is due."

IP networks will be more reliable and secure than analog systems, said Sununu, who sits on the influential Commerce, Science and Technology committee.

"I believe that because it has been true in every other technology where digital systems have supplanted analog systems," he said.

Sununu has been one of leading voices for hands-off regulation of IP services.

In his address, he reiterated two of his guiding principals: that states and municipalities don't have the right to tax IP services; and that regulations shouldn't distinguish between data, video or voice packets.

On specific issues, Sununu criticized the Federal Communications Commission's mandate that VoIP providers disconnect customers who fail to acknowledge the limitations of their emergency service within a set time frame.

"I'm not sure what the FCC was thinking when they laid out [the timeframe]," Sununu said.

While the establishment of a deadline could spur VoIP providers to develop solutions to the problem, he said cutting off customers "carries enormous risks and problems."

The FCC's regulations followed several disturbing incidents where VoIP customers were unable to reach emergency dispatchers.

Sununu said he's also concerned that the Deparment of Justice is being too aggressive in grafting existing wiretapping rules onto VoIP services. It's a concern shared by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy groups.

IP issues are expected to come before Congress in debate later this year and early next year, Sununu said. He understands why incumbent carriers continue opposing new legislation; however, he doesn't think that's the best strategy.

"I look at the RBOCs and they look a lot like the [Recording Industry Association of America]," he said. "They want to discuss a regulatory framework that protects their business model."

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