March 11, 2004 2:15 PM PST

Will Net phone debate draw in other IP services?

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The Federal Communications Commission says its Internet phone rules won't extend beyond voice calls--but other applications that use the Internet could be drawn into the debate.

The FCC said Thursday that it will "examine issues relating to services and applications making use of Internet Protocol including, but not limited to," voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The announcement comes a day after the agency opened a proceeding to consider how VoIP companies should be regulated and invited public comment.

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The expansive scope of the inquiry is meant to build a decent record of the issues involved, an FCC representative said Thursday. "The FCC isn't looking to regulate other IP applications," the representative added.

However, some critics believe that FCC regulators have opened the door for a broader look at the growing number of industries, such as music and television, that distribute their goods using the Internet rather than traditional methods.

Microsoft's Internet-based IPTV, for example, is used by cable and telecom operators to deliver advanced video services, such as on-demand movies, with its Windows Media compression software. Bell Canada is testing a new service that uses Microsoft technology to deliver video over telephone lines.

"IP applications are like pebbles on a driveway," said Jeff Pulver, founder of free Internet phone service Free World Dialup. "You keep on finding more and more of them to take care of."


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