Broadband Act's VoIP access provision means "watch out, here comes the fee monster"

Verizon absolutely luvvs Nevada Republican John Ensign's Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act. One of its many provisions is that traditional phone companies must continue to provide access to competing services on "commercially reasonable" terms.

Verizon absolutely luvvs Nevada Republican John Ensign's Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act. One of its many provisions is that traditional phone companies must continue to provide access to competing services on "commercially reasonable" terms.

"Commercially reasonable?" No company, no enterprise thinks they are being commercially unreasonable. "Commercially reasonable" to me sounds like a rate or fee structure that the ILEC can justify via their balance sheet.

Verizon's Valentine to the junior Senator from Nevada, as reported by my colleague Declan McCullagh:

"We applaud Sen. Ensign for introducing legislation to bring our communications laws into the 21st century...This bill recognizes that the world has changed and consumer-driven markets work better than those managed by the government," Verizon said in a statement.

Uh-oh. My moo-goo detector just went on high gain.

Does "commercially reasonable" sound a bit subjective to you? Of course it is.

Funny thing is, though- consumers often, and regulators sometimes, differ on what is "commercially reasonable." Whether at a bank, public utility or your kitchen contractor, being nickel-and-dimed to death by buckets of small fees, hidden in fine print, is often what passes for being "commercially reasonable."

Then, when you read the annual reports of these fee-setters, you'll see a statement from the CEO or CFO pointing to "increased fee income" as a good thing. Unlock shareholder value, ya know.

So my questions are, what regulatory parameters will be in place to ensure that the fees the ILECs charge the VoIP companies will be "commercially reasonable?" And will consumers have to cover these "commercially reasonable" fees by surcharges to their monthly VoIP bill?

For that matter, what will happen to the smaller VoIP providers who won't have the cash on hand to pay the ILECs what is deemed (cough) "commercially reasonable" access fees to use their lines?

 

 

 

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