VoIP now must support 911 capabilities

FCC/NARUC task force established for enforcement purposes
Sunday, January 1, 2006

WASHINGTON--As of Nov. 28, interconnected VoIP providers must deliver all 911 calls to the customer's local emergency operator. Further, the provider must also pass along the customer's call-back number and location to the emergency operator if the operator is capable of receiving that information. The Federal Communications Commission has declared that all non-compliant VoIP providers must stop taking new customers immediately.
To provide consumers with information on this initiative, the FCC has set up a joint task force with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions, working with the states to enforce this requirement.
Already, said chairman of the consumer affairs subcommittee for NARUC Eddie Roberson, providers like Vonage, who say they are about 60-percent compliant currently, are petitioning for extensions on the 911 requirement.
Providers "see the need of the service functioning properly," said Roberson, "and from a business perspective they see that they need to provide the service if they want to grow," but they say they need more time to get the service working. He said the nomadic nature of users of VoIP, such as businesspeople making calls through their laptops as they travel, makes it difficult to ensure that every 911 call finds its proper local destination.
Asked if he thought the FCC would similarly regulate VoIP so that alarm-company signals would have to be delivered, Roberson was pessimistic.
"It appears that the federal government wants to limit regulation," he said. Might the states regulate VoIP themselves? "I don't believe the states have a lot of jurisdiction," he said.
Lou Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committe, expressed equal pessimism, but was positive about congressional lobbying efforts toward mandated consumer notification of VoIP's interference with alarm functions.