AT&T, MCI, Intel and Texas Instruments, among others, have formed an industry body to influence VoIP regulation and policy making.

Calling itself the Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition, the companies - who all stand to profit from VoIP's adoption in the market - are encouraging the American FCC and other regulators to use a "light touch" on VoIP to give the technology time to flourish in the market. Ongoing policy reviews could lead to new regulatory barriers that would slow adoption and "delay the benefits" of VoIP, the new body has said.

The coalition believes policymakers should not apply traditional telecom regulation to VoIP and that doing so could "stifle VoIP benefits". The group intends to develop and highlight new policy solutions through a policy "framework".

The FCC has been mulling over how to treat VoIP, which some claim is an application on the unregulated Internet data network rather than a traditional telephone service. VoIP service now is mostly free of government regulation but some argue that VoIP carriers should include enhanced 911 services, pay into federal and state universal service funds, and pay access fees as other telephone service providers do.

Meanwhile, law enforcement groups, including the FBI, have questioned whether VoIP providers would comply with phone-tapping requests unless required to do so in FCC regulations.

The VON Coalition said it supports efforts to address a number of critical issues, like the availability of 911 emergency services and law enforcement surveillance, but believes that these, and other concerns, can be addressed without imposing heavy regulation on VoIP. The coalition also favours a reassessment of the universal service fund to "ensure its sustainability through a system of fair contributions" from all providers of telephone number-based communications services. The group also argues for an overhaul of the inter-carrier compensation model to ensure fair compensation for carriers.

"Regulators should avoid imposing above-cost, access fees to any type of Internet application, including any form of VoIP," said Tom Evslin, chairman and CEO of VoIP service provider and coalition member ITXC, in a statement.

Coalition members said they will help educate, inform and promote policies to state and federal regulators, and to public safety and security officials, that "don't stifle innovations with heavy-handed regulation".

The coalition includes service providers Callipso, Convedia, iBasis and PointOne; and suppliers IceNet and Intrado.