'

VOIP'ing The Vote

Although I am non-partisan here, it would serve no useful purpose to ignore the fact that we vote for President tomorrow. Control of the Senate is also up for grabs.

Although I am non-partisan here, it would serve no useful purpose to ignore the fact that we vote for President tomorrow. Control of the Senate is also up for grabs. With that in mind, it is a fair question to explore how any transformation in the halls of governmental power would affect VoIP. If there happens to be a change at the top, probably the most profound effect would be an alteration in the makeup of the FCC. The body has had a lot to say about VoIP. In fact, Chair Michael Powell is on record favoring federal regulation, not state taxation.OK, here is the rub. By statute as well as tradition, 3 of the 5 FCC members, are from the President's party. Currently, there are three Republicans (including Chair Powell) and two Democrats. Although Powell's five-year term does not elapse until 2007, he might feel uncomfortable serving in a public sector with Democrat John Kerry at the helm. He could be expected to leave early, creating the opportunity for the new President to appoint a Democrat. What this would mean for telecommunications policy is pure conjecture. While the same atmosphere of doubt would have to extend to any balance of power shift in the U.S. Senate, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine an environment more amenable to state taxes on Internet telephony services.As far as the VoIP world is concerned, the most proactive Senate voices come from the Communications Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Despite opposition from member John Sununu (R-New Hampshire), this is the same Subcommittee that put their weight behind an amendment to permit states to levy taxes on VoIP services in order to pay for universal service. Some VoIP providers do not like the idea of taxing their futuristic technology to pay for what they view as increasingly obsolete traditional telephone services.If the Democrats take the Senate, they likely would assume the Republicans' current 11-10 majority on the Subcommittee. Present Subcommittee Chair Conrad Burns (R-Montana) would become ranking minority member. The current ranking minority member Fritz Hollings (D-South Carolina) is retiring. One prospect for Chair would be Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), who backed the state VoIP tax amendment.