The announcement that industry regulator Ofcom is starting an investigation in to VoIP which may result in a new cose of practice being issued to suppliers has prompted a number of responses from interested parties.
UKCTA, the UK Competitive Telecommunications Association, notes that during the past couple of years, VOIP providers have entered the market and are offering consumers an alternative to traditional telephone calls. In September 2004, Ofcom adopted an interim position regarding the regulation of VOIP services, pending further clarification from the European Commission. That interim position enabled providers of new voice services to offer access to 999 services, without having to meet all the obligations required of an operator or service provider providing Publicly Available Telephone Services (PATS).
The objective of the interim policy was to ensure that any new services entering the market were not prevented or dissuaded from offering 999 access due to the nature of regulatory requirements. Consumer protection guidelines were also developed by Ofcom and the industry in order to ensure that consumers would have adequate and accurate information about the nature and capabilities of the services they were buying.
UKCTA says what’s different now is that Ofcom has revisited this interim position and is proposing that all operators who provide access to 999 services, whether through traditional voice services or new voice services, should be regulated in the same manner and be subject to the same regulatory obligations. This position will have implications for VOIP providers in the UK today.
In welcoming Ofcom’s proposals UKCTA say they are supportive of the premise that all operators and service providers who enable access to 999 services should be subject to equivalent regulatory requirements adding they are particularly pleased that Ofcom’s approach adopts the concept of technological neutrality. In other words, that regulation should be based upon consideration of the nature of the services provided to end users, and not on the technology used to deliver these services.