This week’s FCC meeting is shaping up to be an important one for VoIP providers such as Vonage. The commission is considering allowing VoIP providers to have direct access to phone numbers and may take the first steps in that direction at Thursday’s monthly FCC meeting. Steps could include allowing a limited trial as well as adopting a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and a notice of inquiry (NOI).
Currently any company wanting to obtain phone numbers for assignment to customers must be certified in each state where numbers are needed. Companies such as Level 3 that have extensive certifications have built a whole line of business around selling phone numbers and other services to VoIP providers. But some VoIP providers want to cut out the middleman.
The FCC may have made the decision to explore this matter further as the result of a waiver request from Vonage asking for direct access to phone numbers. In a letter sent to the FCC late last week, several consumer groups and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners expressed concern that the commission might grant Vonage’s waiver request before gaining industry input on the matter through the NPRM and NOI process.
NARUC represents state-level telecom regulators and, not surprisingly, the letter argues that states have always had “an obvious and logical role in numbering oversight.” Poor phone number management “can lead to unnecessary exhaust of area codes requiring state-level relief proceedings and development of implementation plans that are costly and can have a negative impact on both consumers and commerce,” the letter states.
Consumer groups that signed the letter include AARP, Common Cause, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and National Association of State Consumer Advocates. In addition the National Consumer Law Center signed on behalf of its low-income clients.