FCC plans intercarrier fee rule changes

The Federal Communications Commission is considering an overhaul of the system of fees that phone companies pay to each other when they connect calls from one another's network.

The rule changes, proposed by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, revolve around the fees companies charge when a customer of one phone company calls into another company's territory, or when a wireless subscriber calls a landline phone on another network. The current system assesses these fees based on a variety of factors, including the kind of carriers involved, the traffic on the network and how far the traffic travels. 

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel have been advocates of changing the current rules to a more simplified system, and say the current rules are based on obsolete regulatory concerns. Consumer advocates point out that if fee rates are lowered, as Martin is expected to advocate, the companies would look to make up that lost revenue--about $4 billion industrywide--by passing it on to consumers in the form of higher fees on phone bills.

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