The Federal Communications Commission is keeping and eye on SBC Communications' new connection charge for calls made over the Internet.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell said Friday that SBC's "Tiptop" plan shouldn't be used to force higher connection charges on Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services or to discriminate against SBC competitors.

"Should we conclude that this tariff is being used to justify the imposition of traditional tariffed access charges on VoIP providers or to discriminate against SBC's competitors, the commission will take appropriate action," Powell said in a statement.

FCC actions could include initiating a probe of SBC's tariff, he said.

SBC, the second-largest U.S. telecommunications company, announced Nov. 16 that it planned to offer its own VoIP service in its 13-state local area starting early next year.

In a Nov. 24 filing, SBC notified the FCC of TIPToP, but said it was voluntary and Internet telephone providers could continue to use alternatives to exchange their traffic.

The FCC is still weighing what fees VoIP providers should pay to have their calls completed over traditional phone networks and other issues, like whether Internet calls should pay into a fund the subsidizes phone service to rural areas.

Powell said the SBC charge plan also came at a time when VoIP services were continuing to grab consumer attention with more choice, lower prices, greater value and enhanced features.

"I am committed to ensuring that this commission avoids any action that might slow the IP-services revolution," he said.

Several companies, including AT&T and Vonage as well as a growing number of cable television firms, sell VoIP services to households with high-speed Internet as a replacement for traditional phone lines.

Many local phone companies have been reluctant to push VoIP and undercut prices on their traditional voice services. Verizon Communications offers a VoIP service nationally, but requires its local phone customers to keep their traditional lines, marketing the service as a second-line replacement.

Source: ZDNET News

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