Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

August 18, 2004 - Atlanta - Recently, there has been much discussion concerning Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in the media, including recommendations for consumers to eliminate their landline telephone altogether and use VoIP exclusively. However, consumers are advised that some providers of DSL high speed internet services require the use of a landline telephone in conjunction with VoIP service. The Georgia Public Service Commission wishes to educate consumers about VoIP technology and the factors they should consider as they explore options.

Voice over Internet Protocol is a technology that allows you to make telephone calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular telephone line. While the technology has been around for some years, the average consumer has only recently become aware of VoIP. On February 12, 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began a proceeding to examine what its role in this new environment of increased consumer choice and what it can best do to safeguard the public interest as it relates to VoIP. Shortly thereafter, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that sought comments on several issues, including the impact that IP-enabled services have on the United States' communications landscape, and the rate and extent that customers are beginning to substitute IPenabled services for traditional telecommunications services and networks.

Advantages of Voice over Internet Protocol include:
1.     if your broadband internet provider does not require you to have a landline phone, you don't have to maintain and pay the additional cost for a line just to make telephone calls,
2.     you can use your computer while talking on the telephone,
3.     your VoIP provider may permit you to select an area code different from the area in which you live,
4.     you may be able to use your VoIP service wherever you travel as long as you have a broadband Internet connection available.

Some disadvantages to consider:
1.     regulatory authority over VoIP is uncertain,
2.     some VoIP services don't work during power outages,
3.     it may be difficult for some VoIP services to seamlessly connect with the 911 emergency dispatch center or to identify the location of VoIP 911 callers, and
4.     VoIP providers may or may not offer directory assistance listings.

In addition to pondering the advantages and disadvantages of Voice over Internet Protocol, consumers who do not have a broadband internet connection should weigh the total cost of VoIP with what they pay for local telephone service to insure they are receiving the best value. For more information regarding Voice over Internet Protocol, click here to visit the FCC's website.