Voice over the Internet: Inter-carrier Compensation Issues Create Challenges for US In-house Lawyers

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Voice over the Internet: Inter-carrier Compensation Issues Create Challenges for US In-house Lawyers

Edward Price, Senior Counsel, Global Crossing, USA

This article discusses regulatory issues in the USA surrounding how telecommunications carriers compensate each other for terminating voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) calls. Because VoIP calls originate on a software platform, it is not clear that they are legally subject to ‘access charges’, which US long-distance carriers are required to pay to local carriers for standard long-distance and international traffic. VoIP calls arguably are exempted from access charges because they qualify as an enhanced or information service, as opposed to a telecommunications service, under US law. There are several legal and policy considerations that underlie this controversy, and in-house lawyers with US telecommunications companies have been at the forefront of all of these issues. This article provides background on inter-carrier compensation requirements in the USA, describes the legal and policy questions surrounding VoIP and how they have been, and may in the future be, dealt with in the courts and before US regulatory agencies.

R. Edward Price is Senior Counsel at Global Crossing Limited in its office in Rochester, New York, USA. Prior to that he was a lawyer with the international law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP in Washington, DC, where he represented telecommunications carriers and investors in transactional and regulatory matters. He holds law degrees from George Washington University, where he was an editor of The George Washington Journal of International Law and Economics, and Cambridge University. All views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

Global Crossing Limited is an international provider of broadband, voice, data and multimedia communications, serving approximately 40% of Fortune 500 companies and 700 carrier, mobile operator and Internet service provider customers. It maintains a large backbone and offers transit and peering links, VPN, leased lines, audio and video conferencing, long-distance telephone, managed services, collocation and VoIP to large enterprises and to other carriers. Global Crossing is a tier 1 carrier.

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