Verizon establishes four IP VoIP interconnection agreements, but sees continual regulatory challenges

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has signed up four new service provider IP VoIP arrangements as part of its IP VoIP interconnection partnership program, but it still has to overcome a number of regulatory issues.

The telco added Broadvox and InterMetro and an "agreement on terms with two others."

Following agreements it made with Vonage (NYSE: VG) and Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), the telco now has established IP VoIP interconnection agreements with six providers.

Despite the progress Verizon has made, it told the FCC in a filing that it needs to create an environment that enables service providers to rapidly deploy services.

"The Commission should let the market-driven migration of customers from circuit switched TDM to packet-switched VoIP services lead the IP transition and avoid prescriptive regulatory requirements that would impede progress," Verizon wrote in its filing. "We said that the Commission can best facilitate and encourage the natural, market-driven move to commercial IP interconnection arrangements by removing regulatory obstacles so that companies can move to new IP technologies and services faster."

Verizon has developed its own IP Interconnection Agreement that it says will provide a single, nationwide agreement with service providers that want to exchange VoIP traffic.

However, Verizon said that recent regulatory decisions in Michigan and Massachusetts could threaten the IP transition.

In December, the Michigan Public Service Commission determined that Section 251(c)(2) requires AT&T (NYSE: T) to interconnect with Sprint (NYSE: S) in an IP format for voice.

Similarly, the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable is examining whether it has the authority under Section 252 to regulate the voluntary commercial IP VoIP interconnection agreement between Verizon and its VoIP IP interconnection partner Comcast.

"These and other backwards looking regulatory overhangs may disrupt the progress the industry has made and continues to make through commercial negotiations and agreements," Verizon wrote. "We explained that the Section 251/252 framework would force a patchwork of potentially inconsistent state regulation onto the same IP interconnection arrangements – arrangements that many times will not even have a point of physical interconnection in the regulating state."

Not everyone is in agreement with Verizon.

Angie Kronenberg, chief advocate and general counsel of COMPTEL, said that states should not have to wait for the FCC to take action on IP interconnection issues.

"It is critical that states use their authority granted by Congress to address interconnection when parties cannot agree," Kronenberg said in a statement. "The consumers served by competitors should not be asked to wait for the benefits of IP interconnection."

Verizon and the regulators aren't the only ones involved in the IP interconnection process. ATIS and the SIP Forum last week formed a new Joint Task Force focused on building a specification that will enable North American service providers to establish IP communications network-to-network interface (NNI) arrangements.

For more:
- see the FCC filing

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