• United States



by Paul Kerstein

FCC Backs Off E911 Requirement for VOIP Providers

Nov 09, 20052 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has backed off itsearlier requirement that Internet telephony providers must cut offexisting customers if they do not have enhanced 911 emergency dialingservice.

In a policy statement released late Monday, the FCC said VOIP (voiceover Internet Protocol) providers do not have to cut off customers ifthey have not met an FCC deadline to provide enhanced 911, or E911,service by Nov. 28. E911 service pinpoints the street address of a 911call coming into an emergency dispatch center. However, some VOIPproviders had raised concerns that E911 would be hard to implement withVOIP phones that keep their telephone numbers wherever they are pluggedinto the Internet.

However, the FCC’s Monday statement tells VOIP providers they shouldstop marketing their service to customers if they cannot provide E911service. “We do expect that such providers [not offering E911] willdiscontinue marketing VOIP service, and accepting new customers fortheir service, in all areas where they are not transmitting 911 calls,”the FCC policy statement said.

VOIP providers and some U.S. lawmakers had questioned the FCC’sdecision to cut off service, saying service interruptions would leaveVOIP customers with no way to contact emergency dispatch centers. InAugust, the FCC had delayed a requirement that VOIP providers cut offservice from those customers that do not respond to notices telling ofthe limits of 911 service over VOIP.

Late last month, VOIP provider Nuvio Corp. filed a court challenge tothe Nov. 28 deadline, set in June. The FCC’s short deadline was”arbitrary and capricious,” said Jason Talley, president and chiefexecutive officer of Nuvio, a VOIP provider based in Kansas.

While the FCC’s action Monday backed away from the service cut-offrequirement, Talley objected to the ruling that VOIP providers stopmarketing service when they cannot provide E911. That decision willhurt VOIP providers trying to compete with large telecom carriersoffering traditional phone service, he said.

“It smacks of protectionism of the [large telecom carriers] and thecable companies,” Talley said of the marketing rules. “It’s the FCCpicking and choosing which technologies they want to support and whichtechnologies they want to succeed.”

By Grant Gross – IDG News Service (Washington Bureau)