Voice Communication over the Internet


Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology is increasingly popular. It allows consumers to make phone calls over an internet connection. VoIP has fewer consumer protections than traditional landline phone service. This is because states are barred from regulating some types of VoIP. 

There are two types of VoIP. Fixed VoIP is interconnected to the landline network and allows users to call or be called by anyone with a telephone number, including local, long-distance, mobile, and international numbers. Nonfixed, or nomadic, VoIP enables users to call other people anywhere in the world without charge as long as the recipients are also using the same service or application. This distinction is important because states are barred from regulating nonfixed VoIP. 

Fixed VoIP is subject to state jurisdiction. Some states have, among other actions, required fixed VoIP providers to contribute to state universal service funds, file annual reports with state regulators, and develop a customer complaint process. In contrast, other states have enacted laws that exempt all types of VoIP service from state jurisdiction. 



Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Policymakers should ensure that all consumers have access to high-quality voice telecommunications services. The service should be affordable and reliable. It should also include consumer protections. These standards should apply whether consumers have a traditional landline, subscribe to a VoIP service, or use another alternative. 

Among other goals, policymakers should: 

  • ensure that all VoIP service includes Enhanced 911 capability (see also Enhanced 911 Service section of this chapter), 
  • maintain states’ authority to adopt service-quality and other consumer protections for VoIP and further strengthen minimum federal requirements for VoIP providers, 
  • require VoIP providers to pay into federal and state universal service funds and allow them to receive eligible carrier status if qualified, 
  • require VoIP providers to comply with federal and state consumer protection and disclosure regulations that are at least the same as or comparable to those for other telecommunications providers (see this chapter’s section on Consumer Protections, Service Quality, and Reliability), and 
  • require VoIP providers to provide full up-front disclosures regarding the limitations of VoIP service.