Thursday, December 06, 2018

VoIP Services in Minnesota Surmount Another Hurdle

Back in October 2017, my Free State Foundation colleague Seth Cooper published the blog, "The Case for Keeping VoIP Free from Legacy Regulation." Indeed, FSF scholars have argued for a decade  or more that VoIP services are "information services" and should not be subject to common carrier regulation, either at the federal or state level.

After release of the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order, Seth pointed out January 2018 blog that the case for non-regulation of VoIP services was bolstered.

Then, in September 2018, the Eighth Circuit affirmed a lower federal court opinion rejecting the Minnesota Public Utility Commission's claim that Charter Advanced Services' Spectrum Voice VoIP service should be subject to state regulation as a telecom common carrier.  See the opinion here in Charter Advanced Services v. Lange, where the Eighth Circuit holds that, pursuant to federal policy, Charter's VoIP service is an "information service," and that the FCC policy of non-regulation of information services precludes state regulation.

Now comes the news that on December 4th the Eighth Circuit issued an order denying the Minnesota petitions for rehearing and rehearing en banc.

This is good news because, as a matter of law, Charter's VoIP should be classified as an "information service" which, by virtue of such classification, preempts state telecom regulation. And, as a matter of policy, there certainly is sufficient competition in the market in which VoIP services compete to eschew public utility-type telecom regulation, whether by the FCC or states like Minnesota. (There are few other states that have tried to regulate VoIP services. Vermont is one presently asserting jurisdiction over Comcast's VoIP service. Vermont should take the hint and devote its resources, more productively, to other matters.)    

Indeed, more good news would be word that Minnesota and Vermont are abandoning their efforts to subject VoIP services to public utility regulation and, instead, devoting their attention to updating their state telecom laws to account for the technological advances and market-driven changes that have rendered these legacy laws outdated.