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FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.
Not too long ago, Facebook didn't even exist, while phone companies had provided means of communications for many decades. Then Facebook was born as a social networking site for college kids.
In just a handful of years, Facebook has exploded nationally and internally to the tune of 750 million current users. This, not surprisingly, has attracted the attention of the phone companies, who want equal regulatory treatment.
Indeed, a phone company trade group has stated its view that it is unfair for Facebook to provide Internet-based telephone services free from regulation, while telephone companies grapple with serious regulatory requirements.
This view is strong enough that Walter McCormick, U.S. Telecom's President, reportedly has asked Congress to revise telecommunications laws to reflect the new telephone world order that includes Facebook's Internet-based phone services. He has expressed the sentiment that with expanding competition and consumer choices, one segment of the communications industry should not be regulated disproportionately when compared to another.
Mr. McCormick reportedly has noted that Facebook's current tally of 750 million users is greater than the users of any particular phone company, and that Facebook now offers voice services by partnering with Skype.
While Facebook's network is built on software, and the phone companies' networks are based on wirelines, that is not a reason, in his reported opinion, for them to be treated so differently: "we need to have laws that don't advantage or disadvantage particular networks," he is quoted as saying.
Whether Congress takes notice and moves to level the argued uneven playing field remains to be seen.
Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP (http://www.duanemorris.com) where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.