Ritter rapped for derailing bill on Net phone service

/ Colorado News Agency
Jun 11th, 2010

IMG_2207-1Gov. Bill Ritter’s veto earlier this week of a measure exempting Internet phone service from state regulation–and easing up as well on regulation of traditional phone service –ignores the realities of today’s telecommunications market, a sponsor of the bill said.

House Bill 1281, sponsored by Rep. Ed Casso, D-Commerce City, and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, would have exempted voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP), from regulation by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.  VoIP allows telephone calls to be placed through a broadband Internet connection rather than through conventional telephone lines.  HB 1281 would also have permitted traditional phone service—such as Qwest– less regulation due to increased competition in the market place.

In issuing his veto, Ritter cited among other reasons the need to look to the federal government for guidance in determining whether or not to pursue a path of regulation or non-regulation for the newer technology. Ritter based his reluctance to preclude regulation on the lack of action from the Federal Communications Commission, which has  not yet taken a position.

“Pre-emptively barring the state from regulating VoIP at this time is unwise, considering activity at the federal level concerning VoIP,” said Ritter in his official veto letter. “It is important to permit the FCC the time to make its decisions concerning VoIP.”

However, Spence, who received her first veto with HB 1281 in her many years as a state legislator, said that the governor’s reasoning lacks credibility due to VoIP’s lack of attention from the FCC and because of the increased competition that VoIP has brought to telecommunications, decreasing the need for oversight. That, she said, counters the governor’s contention outlined in his veto letter that “the PUC must have the latitude and authority to regulate the price, quality of service, and availability of VoIP in order to prevent significant harm to the consumers of this state.”  The arguments just don’t hold water for Spence.

“With the increase in popularity of alternative phone service such as cell phones and Internet-based phone service, the need for regulation based on lack of competition for Qwest is no longer there,” said Spence noting that, “VoIP has been around since 2004 and the FCC hasn’t moved to regulate it at all, so I guess they don’t feel that it needs regulation. So, why should we consider letting the PUC regulate it in Colorado?”

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