'Net neutrality' necessary for alarm signals

Industry takes action to ensure ISPs do not interfere with alarm data; ESA, AICC petition FCC
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

WASHINGTON—Concerned about fair, reliable and accurate transmission of alarm data, the ESA and the Alarm Industry Communications Committee are urging the FCC to support net neutrality.

“To ensure the continued effectiveness of the alarm systems protecting millions of Americans, alarm data must be transmitted accurately and promptly from the end user premise to the central station along the entire communications path,” Lou Fiore, AICC chairman, wrote in a letter to the FCC.

Net neutrality is an open Web principle founded on the basic premise that governments and Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all Internet traffic equally, avoiding discrimination on the basis of market factors or other technical characteristics.

The ESA is supporting an AICC effort urging the FCC to adopt rules to ensure that ISPs do not block or hinder the transmission of alarm data.

“There are some major efforts underway at the FCC on the president’s broadband expansion initiative on net neutrality, and there are some major concerns in the industry relating to net neutrality,” said John Chwat, government relations director at ESA, which is an AICC member.

Fiore’s letter to the FCC, titled, “On the Matter of Preserving the Open Internet,” makes the organizations’ stance clear. Fiore writes that neither broadband Internet access providers nor ISPs should be allowed to “interfere with the prompt and accurate transmission of this data.”

That could potentially create a competitive environment in which the scales are tipped in favor of services offered by certain ISPs, who, in the absence of open web rules, could have the power to put competitors at a disadvantage.

Internet access providers and ISPs, Fiore writes, “should not be allowed to discriminate in favor of their own offerings over those of an unaffiliated provider.”

Making sure that alarm data isn’t subject to discriminating ISPs and broadband providers isn’t the only concern, Chwat told SSN. The ESA and AICC are also supporting a measure that requires broadband providers and ISPs to disclose information concerning their practices if that information would impact an end user’s alarm service.

In his letter to the FCC, Fiore says that ISPs should be held to the same standard of dependability as the public switched telephone network that end users have relied on for the past 30 years. The dependability of the PSTN network, Fiore writes, is a “direct result of the PSTN being engineered to assure a high probability of call completion.” In a similar vein, Fiore notes that central stations “have sufficient redundancy to remain operational” in the event of equipment and software upgrades, and believes ISPs, too, should have redundant capabilities during such events.

The third prong of the AICC’s letter to the FCC deals with a feature of VoIP-based services known as line seizure, which allows an alarm panel to “seize control of a phone line if alarm signals need to be transmitted to a monitoring center,” Fiore writes. Some providers of VoIP-based applications, he notes, do not account for the line seizure device and effectively bypass it, “rendering it inoperable.”

Thus, Fiore wrote that the AICC “supports a requirement that the customer should be notified by the VoIP provider when he or she switches to VoIP service to notify the alarm company and to test the system.”