• United States



by Paul Kerstein

FCC Lets VOIP Providers Slide On 911 — Again

Nov 30, 20053 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Another deadline has come and gone with the FCC taking no actionagainst VOIP service providers that fail to provide 911 emergencycalling to their customers.

Monday was the deadline for service providers to file letters thatexplain what 911 systems they are using, how many of their customerscan actually get 911 service, to what areas they provide 911 serviceand how they plan to extend the service to all their coverage area.

So far the commission has rolled back its deadline for complying withFCC requirements three times, and has let providers keep sellingservices even though they may not include 911. A key stipulation wasthat customers acknowledge that they understand the 911 they get from aVOIP provider may behave differently from the 911 they would get from atraditional circuit-switched voice carrier.

It was unclear from the outset what the penalty would be for those whodid not comply with the latest FCC demands, and the FCC has issuednothing stating what it plans next. The commission is reading theletters that have been filed and not looking at possible penalties,according to a report by the Associated Press.

At issue is how 911 dispatchers can locate the phone from which aperson has called when the phone is known to the network by an IPaddress, not by a particular wire connecting it to the network. Thephone can move around to any IP network connection and now could be acontinent away from where it was when it placed its last call.

So far the toughest restriction the FCC has placed on VOIP providers isforbidding them to sell services in areas where they cannot provide911. Depending on how large these non-911 gaps are, that could crimpprovider expansion plans.

Since 911 is a public safety issue, the FCC at some point has torequire that all VOIP customers get 911 with the traditional features:the ability to tell the nearest public safety dispatcher where the callis coming from and what the phone number is.

Some VOIP providers, such as Vonage, require their customers to call inand report where the phone is located in order to get the call routedto the correct dispatching site. Even then, the dispatcher does notautomatically get an address or a phone number for the caller. Thecaller has to provide those. Vonage is working with SBC and BellSouthto provide 911 for Vonage customers, but has not extended the serviceto all customers yet.

By Tim Greene – Network World (US online)