Thread Subject: Re: Background on what is covered by Sec. 255 Rules
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From: Karen Peltz Strauss
Date: Thu, Dec 13 2007 7:15 AM
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In response to Gregg and Peter's exchange of e-mails, here is some more
Under the FCC's new order, Section 255's requirements are extended to
"providers of interconnected voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services as
defined by the Commission and to manufacturers of specially designed
equipment used to provide those services." The definition of
interconnected VoIP services is found at 47 CFR Sec 9.3:
An interconnected Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service is a service
(1) Enables real-time, two-way voice communications;
(2) Requires a broadband connection from the user's location;
(3) Requires Internet protocol-compatible customer premises
equipment (CPE); and
(4) Permits users generally to receive calls that originate on the
public switched telephone network and to terminate calls to the public
switched telephone network.
You can see that Gregg is correct that these services must be
interconnected. However this definition is not tied to whether or not there
is a fee for the service. Nor does the extension of 255's requirements to
providers of voicemail and interactive menu services, as well as the
manufacturers of equipment that perform those functions, appear to be
contingent on a fee. As you note, this is different than the definition of
"telecommunications service" which is "the offering of telecommunications
for a fee directly to the public, or to such classes of users as to be
effectively available directly to the public, regardless of the facilities
Gregg is also correct that notwithstanding Skype-in and Skype-out's
connection to the PSTN, Skype does not appear to be covered by the 255 VoIP
Order. Like Gregg, I am not sure why this is the case, but this is
consistent with my conversations with people at the FCC and on the Hill. I
believe it has to do with the public's expectations. When people use VoIP
phones, they are truly substituting those phones for PSTN-based service.
Skype and Skype-like services have not yet achieved that level - i.e., it
has been explained to me that when people use these Internet services, they
do not have the same level of expectations that current federal laws
covering social obligations for the PSTN, whether these require emergency
access, universal service and I suppose, disability access, as they do for
VoIP phones. However, Gregg is right as well that as the popularity of
these Internet-based communication systems increase, those expectations will
rise, and eventually, they will likely be covered by accessibility
obligations. So . . . understanding that they are not covered for the
purposes of our current conversation, companies that are developing these
services should have the foresight to begin building in accessibility now,
rather than incur greater costs by having to retrofit later.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Gregg Vanderheiden" < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >
To: "'TEITAC Task Force'" < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 1:34 AM
Subject: Re: [teitac-tf] Background on what is covered by Sec. 255 Rules
>I see what you are looking at.
> (and yes - the advertising angle is a difficult one -- as is the 'we'll
> it to you free in exchange for tracking all your traffic and selling that
> information (anonymized or not) to others" and also bundling free with
> "Pay" is a funny word these days.
> But I think those are definitions of Telecom and telecom services. So
> those definitions aren't the ones to look at for IP.
> Does the "Interconnected VoIP" definition use the word 'for a fee' or does
> it just say VoIP connected to PSTN? Don't remember. Karen?
> -- ------------------------------
> Gregg C Vanderheiden Ph.D.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
>> [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Peter Korn
>> Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 12:20 AM
>> To: TEITAC Task Force
>> Subject: Re: [teitac-tf] Background on what is covered by
>> Sec. 255 Rules
>> Hi Gregg,
>> > Here is my crack at it. Karen may have a more
>> authoritative knowledge on
>> > this but here is my understanding.
>> > ...
>> >>> II. Covered Functions
>> >>> 1. Part 6.11 and 7.11 Information, documentation and training
>> >>> - "Manufacturers and service providers shall ensure access to
>> >>> information and documentation it provides to its customers,
>> >> if readily
>> >>> achievable. Such information and documentation included
>> >> user guides,
>> >>> bills, installation guides for end-user installable devices, and
>> >>> product support communications, regarding both the product
>> >> in general
>> >>> and the accessibility features.."
>> >>> 2. "An entity that provides both telecommunications
>> services and
>> >>> non-telecommunications services, however, is subject to
>> section 255
>> >>> only to the extent that it provides a telecommunications service"
>> >>> (September 1999 255 Order, paragraph 80.)
>> >>> 3. "In connection with multipurpose equipment, we adopt our
>> >>> tentative conclusion that CPE is covered by section 255
>> only to the
>> >>> extent that it provides a telecommunications function."
>> >>> 1999 255 Order, paragraph 87)
>> >> OK, this seems to help in the Skype canonical case (assuming that
>> >> "telecommunications function" mirrors "telecommunications service"
>> >> and only kicks in when a fee to the public is involved) -
>> >> that
>> >> 255 only applies only at that point to CPE.
>> >> I'm using Skype as the well-known example, but there are plenty of
>> >> other software voice products/offerings (e.g.
>> >> GoogleTalk, Windows Messenger, Apple's video conferencing,
>> >> Ekiga) - all of which are computer to computer and generally free.
>> > I don't think it is the FREE part that triggers it. It is the
>> > 'interconnected to PSTN' part.
>> I appreciate that this must be viewed in terms of
>> 'interconnected to PSTN', and I also appreciate your point
>> that interconnected VoIP is not covered by the original law
>> but rather by more recent FCC ruling.
>> The "free" bit comes from the first bit of text from Judy,
>> which you didn't include in your quote of my missive:
>> > I. Entities Covered by Section 255
>> > 1. Any provider of telecommunications Services (47 CFR 6.1)
>> > - Definition of Telecommunications Service is from the 1996
>> > Telecom Act - essentially it is "offering
>> telecommunications for a fee
>> > to the public"
>> Thus if I am offering telecommunications NOT for a fee (i.e.
>> free) to the public, then what I am offering is not a
>> "telecommunications service". That would suggest that the FCC
>> only regulates things relating to commerce, which makes sense
>> from a jurisdictional viewpoint of what the Federal
>> government can and cannot do from the point of view of the
>> commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.
>> Of course, that path can get us into an argument over
>> advertising-supported "free" services vs. those that can be
>> obtained with zero strings, fees, costs, etc. (e.g. a Linux
>> CD containing the Ekiga point-to-point video-chat software,
>> working over a free [to the user] Internet connection). And
>> again, I recognize that something like Ekiga is VoIP and thus
>> not covered by this language anyway. But it is the easiest
>> example I can come up with of something that is as "free" as
>> one can get.
>> Maybe if I could come up with some theoretical new wire-based
>> technology that modulated audio over power lines - including
>> going through transformers, etc., such that they would carry
>> over state lines - and then offered it for free, I could come
>> closer to non-VOIP telecommunications that, if offered for
>> free, would thereby walk the particular path I had been
>> thinking things like Ekiga might be walking.
>> Peter Korn
>> Accessibility Architect,
>> Sun Microsystems, Inc.
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