House passes Internet access bill

The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed Internet-access legislation

that has drawn the ire of voice over IP (VOIP) vendors and supporters.

Specifically, the House, by voice vote, passed H.R. 1291, the Internet Access

Charge Prohibition Act of 1999, which lawmakers originally crafted as a

bill to throw bipartisan support behind a ban on Internet access taxation.

But a recent amendment to the bill would leave room for the Federal Communications

Commission to levy access charges for VOIP applications.

The legislation still must pass the Senate, where its critics have vowed

a more stringent fight, sources said.

The amendment introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and adopted by the

House Commerce Committee, states that the legislation should not preclude

the FCC "from imposing access charges on the providers of Internet telephone

services, irrespective of the type of customer premises equipment used in

connection with such services."

That exception to the bill — which basically bans other Internet access

surcharges — has riled some VOIP supporters.

"I believe the telephony industry should pay something, but not charges

based on Old World rules," said Jeff Pulver, CEO of Pulver.com, which publishes

The Pulver Report on emerging Internet technology.

A spokesman for Upton said the congressman inserted the amendment to keep

the bill moving. Upton's intent was to move VOIP off the table, because

those applications are not yet as mainstream as others on the Internet,

the spokesman said.

"People who are able to use voice over the Internet for telephony purposes

right now are mostly in higher income categories. It is not such a wide-reaching

thing at this point," he said.

But Pulver said he is looking to rally Internet providers around the notion

that a charge on VOIP applications would open a Pandora's box of issues

should the bill try to regulate one type of data set and not another.

Many have speculated that the bill language might well pass the House but

would have a harder time getting through the Senate, Pulver said.

REPORT CARD

FCC signals concern for safety [FCW.com, May 12, 2000]

Ultra-wideband makes waves [Federal Computer Week, April 17, 2000]

BY Jennifer Jones, InfoWorld.com
May 18, 2000

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