The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) rules on Voice over IP (define) wiretapping accessibility is likely to set off another round of regulatory uncertainty, all in the name of regulatory certainty.

Since the FCC began investigative proceedings on VoIP almost two years ago, the agency has promised a light regulatory approach but stressed that Internet telephone services would have certain legal obligations, particularly in the areas of law enforcement and public safety.

The FCC first took up public safety, ordering Internet telephone companies provide the same E911 calling services as traditional telephone firms. One lawsuit is already pending on that order.

In early August, the FCC mandated that wireline broadband providers and Internet telephone companies have 18 months to comply with the network wiretap accessibility rules of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

Last weekend, the FCC quietly released the actual rules backing up its unanimous August vote. The issuance of the rules is likely to set in motion months, if not years, of even more litigation, a possibility not overlooked by the commissioners.

''Because litigation is as inevitable as death and taxes, and because some might not read the statute to permit the extension of CALEA to the broadband Internet access and VoIP services at issue here, I have stated my concern that an approach like the one we adopt today is not without legal risk,'' wrote Republican Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy.

Democrat Michael Copps added, ''Though I approve today's decision, I continue to note that it is built on very complicated legal ground. The statute is undeniably stretched to recognize new service technologies and pushed very hard to accommodate new and emerging telecommunications platforms.''

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