Will the VoIP Symmetry Rule Encourage Internet Calls?

FCC or Federal Communications Commission is the governing authority over the VoIP phone system and has made numerous efforts to bring VoIP into the mainstream. One such step is the implementation of the VoIP Symmetry Rule. The recent rule is claiming to promote the local network investment and IP Transition. Predictions have been made that it’s likely to resolve wasteful litigations as well. 

Will it succeed?

Let’s find out. But before this:

A little background 

From the internet phone number users’ part, how the calls are shared by different telecommunication is still a mystery. As the networks running over physical copper wire, fiber optics, and mobile networks can be used for making VoIP calls, many companies and networks are evolved behind the single VoIP calls. Seeing that, FCC tried to simplify things by launching VoIP Symmetry Rule. 

Adopted by the FCC in 2011, this rule allows VoIP service providers to pull through charges from the customers following the same terms as of the landline carriers. Using this rule, FCC abandoned the old-school internet phone number usage approaches to intercarrier compensation, makes the IP-based network and services transitions, and tried to eliminate competitive distortions. 

As per rule, LEC is eligible to charge the relevant intercarrier compensation for various services performed by itself or by its associated VoIP phone system providers, even though resources used/functions performed are used under a traditional TDM architecture. Many times FCC clarified that VoIP symmetry rule is active in a technology and facilities-neutral manner.

 It sets the competitive local exchange carrier or its VoIP phone system provider free from the requirement to offer the physical last-mile facility to the VoIP provider’s end-user customers just to make sure that there is the presence of functional equivalent of end office switching. However, the rule was a bit unclear and was responsible for various disputes developed between CLECs and IXCs (AT&T and Verizon). 

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The main reason for the dispute was holding payments by AT&T and Verizon for certain access elements. Here, IXCs made claims that both CLEC and VoIP service providers fail to offer either end office switching or the “functional equivalent” of end office switching. This further leads to the failure of both the parties (IXC and VoIP service provider) to gain access charges under the VoIP symmetry rule.

This claim was granted or taken into consideration by the CLECs, and they completely disagreed on this. As per their interpretation of symmetry rule, they are eligible to gain access to end office switching all the time when they join hands with over-the-top VoIP provider partners.

During the launch of FCC ruling, FCC’s then-Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote:

‘I continue to believe that technology transitions will be speeded by technology-neutral rules that promote, preserve, and protect the competitive choices that consumers expect. Today’s decision will help maintain those competitive choices through the symmetrical treatment of like services and additional regulatory certainty for all parties.’

Since the launch of the VoIP Symmetry rule, FCC tried hard to clarify its actual motto. To bring at the front seat, FCC tried to extend the VoIP symmetry rule apply to all VoIP providers. But the move was discouraged soon after by a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The recent situation and the rise of the new order 

Despite such efforts, there was still some ambiguity in this rule. FCC recently issued an order on remand to make things clear for internet business phone system providers. In a brief yet concise manner, the recent ruling tried to explain that in a ‘last-mile physical connection’ made from homes or businesses should be taken into account as a meeting of an end-office switching definition.

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As per this, the new ruling should also lead to a few costly inter-carrier competition disputes between the key market players like Verizon and AT&T, as they refuse to pay the ‘last mile’ charges to VoIP service providers responsible for transmitting calls over the internet till the time the final connection has established.

In his statement, the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said:

This might seem like an arcane & weedy matter, and it is, but it’s also important. By limiting intercarrier compensation charges to companies that are providing a physical connection, we’re ensuring that our rules provide an incentive to build networks and continue the transition from traditional copper networks to modern IP-based networks that will support continued future innovation.

The key advantage 

One of the most advent and crucial advantages of this recent ruling is that it defines the key aspects of the end office switching in a TDM network. In most cases, some of the key internet business phone system providers failed big time to actually connect with a last-mile network to a customer’s home. In that case, they aren’t entitled to collect access charges for performing that function. 

In summary, though it seems promising, its actual effects are yet to be seen.


Rose is a technology enthusiast and a writer. She had the interest to write articles related to technology, software, Mobiles, Gadgets and many more.

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