The Eighth Circuit held today that the Federal Communications Commission acted within its authority in preempting state regulation of Internet telephone service — which goes by the popular name Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP. The court rejected challenges to the FCC’s determination that federal rules must prevail due to the impracticability of figuring out which VoIP calls involved only intrastate communications (which states may regulate) and which ones traveled interstate (the FCC’s domain). The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission v. FCC, No. 05-1069 (8th Cir. Mar. 21, 2007).
VoIP, as a cheaper and more flexible alternative to regular telephone service, fascinates Blawgletter. The court’s opinion made the technology even more interesting. Blawgletter learned, for example, the difference between "nomadic" VoIP service, which a customer may use anywhere he can connect via broadband to the Internet, and "fixed" VoIP service, which the customer accesses from one place, often where he receives cable modem service. What will they think of next?