California moves to tax (er, license) VoIP "carriers"

According to an article from CNet this morning, the State of California is joining Wisconsin and Minnesota in requiring VoIP carriers to submit to regulation as a telephone company.

It remains unclear exactly what any of the three states expects to do with this regulation, but there are indications that land-line companies (incumbent monopoly telcos) are hoping to charge "termination fees" of up to $0.10 per call for voice calls terminating in a land line outside of the "local area" of the originating call. For more information, Americas Network has an article detailing some of the issues.

However, it may go beyond this to include the levying of fees or other regulations on VoIP carriers that would include telephone calls not terminated on a telephone (in other words, a call from one VoIP customer to another). Today these are indisputably considered to be "data" for regulatory purposes, but that could change with regulation, and that uncertainty is something to consider.

For the time being, I'm going to take a wait and see (especially since I don't live in any of these states), but I enjoy the cost and feature benefits of using a VoIP phone carrier (I use Vonage and am very happy), and would hate to see anything happen to make that market less competitive.