Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Melissa Winberg

First Page



In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act, substantially revising the Communications Act of 1934 to reflect technological advances, including the Internet, and Congress's deregulatory goals. Currently, however, new technologies are challenging the viability of the statutory definitions and regulatory schemes of the statute. Internet telephony, commonly called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is both a replacement for traditional telephone service and a new web-based technology. Given the current competitive political climate and the magnitude of the interests involved, Congress is unlikely to succeed in altering the telecommunications regime. Thus, the Federal Communications Commission, which has the authority to regulate interstate telecommunications, must decide how to regulate VoIP within the confines of the current statute. This Note analyzes the FCC's current approach to regulating VoIP and draws upon the FCC's previous experience in regulating new technologies to recommend a course of action. The Note concludes that the FCC should end uncertainty regarding the statutory classification of VoIP by declaring it an "information service. " The FCC should then proceed cautiously in its regulation of VoIP, using its limited ancillary jurisdiction to regulate in the public interest only when the market has failed to remedy a public harm. In addition, the FCC should allow new technologies, such as VoIP, as much flexibility as possible in order to create innovative solutions to public harms and should resist applying traditional regulatory structures to new technologies.