Telecommunications has evolved a considerable amount since the old days of one company controlling virtually every aspect of the industry. This type of monopoly was a recipe responsible for stifling innovation and destroying the competition. While most of the behaviors have been eliminated, there are still some persistent practices used by traditional phone companies that slow new advances. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is encouraging innovation by supporting Vonage to enter a trial phase in Atlanta, Boston and Phoenix in order to receive direct access to phone numbers.
Although VoIP service providers use the Internet, they still have to get the numbers they assign to their customers from traditional telephone companies. This step is time consuming, unnecessary and adds an additional cost barrier that is passed on to the consumer.
The FCC gave the go-ahead to Vonage in April 2013 and provided the company with 150,000 phone numbers so they can be assigned to their customers. The company started the trial beginning July 31, 2013. If the trial is successful, the commission is considering making the practice widely available to VoIP and other alternative telecom service providers.
Streamlining this process is cutting the few remaining cords to traditional phone companies and allowing companies established in the digital world to keep revolutionizing the industry. The six-month trial of direct access to phone numbers is designed to encourage innovation so new services can be introduced and made available to customers without any hindrance from companies that could limit this growth.
The direct IP to IP interconnection will give companies such as Vonage the tools they need to pass the cost of dealing with phone companies to their customers. Vonage Chief Financial Officer Dave Pearson said it will result in “cost savings in the double digit millions of dollars in the subsequent two to three years."
"Direct access to telephone numbers is the future of telecommunications. It allows for lower-cost, higher-quality voice service and innovation in developing new services, which benefits consumers. The limited trial will provide real-world data to demonstrate that the technical concerns raised by some opponents are without merit. We look forward to working with the Commission in the rulemaking," said Kurt Rogers, chief legal officer for Vonage.
The FCC is pushing for this trial to succeed because new services in home security systems, programmable appliances, telematics like hands-free cellular modems in automobiles, and emergency services will all need phone numbers. If the existing process is not abolished, the additional costs the phone companies charge will slow down the progress taking place.