FCC Says Slamming Rules Do Not Apply to VoIP Providers

The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC has reversed a November decision by its Consumer Policy Division relating to alleged slamming by a VoIP provider. The Bureau’s May 19 ruling granted a request to reconsider the Consumer Policy Division’s November 6, 2008 decision that Mediacom, a VoIP provider, had violated the slamming” rules by switching a customer from Verizon to Mediacom without following the FCC’s prescribed procedures for authorizing carrier changes. The November Order of the Division stated that it had sought to contact Mediacom but gotten no response, and thus it applied a presumption of liability to Mediacom and held it liable for slamming. The new Bureau Order indicates that Mediacom had actually responded to the Division, but had misfiled it and thus the Division was unaware of the response at the time it ruled. Then, stating that the Commission’s carrier change rules have not been extended to VoIP”, the Bureau rescinded the November Order and denied the slamming complaint against Mediacom. The Bureau noted that the FCC requested public comment on the application of the slamming rules to VoIP in 2004, but has never acted on that proposal.

This latest ruling remains consistent with the FCC’s position that VoIP providers are only subject to carrier rules after the FCC explicitly decides to apply them; in contrast, more traditional carriers are obligated to observe all rules simply by virtue of being authorized to operate as common carriers. In light of the FCC’s extension of the number porting rules to VoIP providers, however, it seems very likely that the slamming rules will be extened to VoIP sometime in the next several months.