The way we communicate, or want to communicate, is changing faster than the state laws that regulate it. The state senate, trying to play catch-up, has passed a new telecommunications reform bill and has sent to the House.

The proposed law is the state’s first effort to regulate telephone service through the internet–although it does not let the Public Service Commission set rates for the service. The bill also does not allow VOIP, as it’s called, to be considered a "telecommunications service." VOIP is high-tech-speak for "voice over internet protocol." The bill establishes basic requirements for providers of VOIP.

Sponsor John Griesheimer of Washington says it’s the state’s first step in this new kind of telecommunications system. "As…new technology comes, the regulations aren’t there," he says, "Competition sets the bar."

The bill requires VOIP service providers to register with the Public Service Commission before they can provide service. The PSC cannot set rates for those providers. But the providers must collect and pay all of the same fees and surcharges that regular telephone companies do. They also have to file annual reports with the PSC.

The bill is SS/SCS/HCS/HB1779