A light regulatory hand will be critically important to ensuring landline telephony alternatives remain available, so says Eli Lehrer, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a new paper, “Keeping the Voices Alive,” that looks at changing wireline technology. The copper platform is dying, says Lehrer, and it’s critical that regulators allow new technologies, including voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and “device-based” telephony, such as Ooma’s $399 device which, once purchased, the manufacturer claims, allows consumers to make unlimited calls without incurring service fees, to grow without hobbling them with regulatory mandates heldover from a past era. But to truly open this environment, regulators must get past the notion that copper-based service is the standard by which all service should be measured, he says. This attitude, says Lehrer, risks creating mandates for calling technologies that do not fit their inherent nature.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.