Free conference call providers are a dying breed
The days are numbered for all Free Conference Call services, it’s simply a matter of time. The big telcos have been a bit pissy for having to aid their competitors indirectly via the USF. The emotion over this has been coming to boil for years now and recently Free Conference Call provider Foonz fell, just a few days ago.
I am sure glad we decided to pull out of that Free Conference Call game long ago. Our conference call service “Lypp” (formerly Gaboogie) started by offering free conferencing but quickly decide that was a bad idea (duh!). Lypp is now cash flow positive, growing like crazy and not showing any signs of slowing down.
Toll Teleconferencing is now being taxed by USAC. InterCall appeals and loses?
In recent rulings the FCC has ordered certain Conference Call service providers to start paying into the controversial USF (Universal Service Fund). InterCall (the largest Conference Service Provider) has appealed, apparently unsuccessfully.
Excerpt from FCC 08-160
Adopted: June 27,2008 Released: June 30, 2008
By the Commission:
1. In this order, we deny in part and grant in part a request for review filed by InterCall, Inc.
(InterCall) of a Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) decision finding that the audio
bridging services offered by InterCall are “toll teleconferencing” services and that InterCall must
contribute directly to the universal service fund (USF) based on revenues from these services.
As discussed more fully below, the audio bridging services InterCall provides are equivalent to
teleconferencing services and are “telecommunications” under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act) and the Universal Service First Report and Order. Providers of these services must contribute directly to the USF based onrevenues from these services; therefore, we deny InterCall’s request to reverse USAC’s decision in this respect. We, however, grant InterCall’s request and reverse USAC’s decision requiring InterCall to contribute based on past revenues. Instead, InterCall must contribute directly to the USF beginning as of the calendar quarter immediately following the next scheduled FCC Form 499-Q filing after the release date of this order. We further direct USAC to ensure that all similarly situated audio bridging service providers contribute directly to the USF beginning as of this same time frame.
This is interesting for us CSPs (Conference Service Providers) to say the least and it’s likely going to get very interesting for those CSPs who are charging for toll teleconferencing. What this order basically says is that if a CSP is charging for toll conference calls (user has to dial into a local exchange) that revenue is subject to USF taxation.
This could be viewed as another win for Alex cory’s group ala FreeConference.com. They get paid via the USF and other providers have to pay into it, ironic and somewhat comical. Well, you know what they say, if you can’t beat’em, join’em.
Here is the entire document regarding InterCall’s appeal.