Senate Committee Approves VoIP Bill

Greg Galitzine : Greg Galitzine's VoIP Authority Blog
Greg Galitzine

Senate Committee Approves VoIP Bill

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee voted to approve legislation that would among other things, prevent the shutting off of VoIP service for providers who failed or were unable to comply with the FCC’s November 28 deadline. S. 1063, or The IP-Enabled Voice Communications and Public Safety Act of 2005, passed Committee unanimously.

As reported on the US Senate Commerce Committee Web site, the bill, S. 1063 has three primary objectives:


First, the bill provides authority and guidance to the FCC so that they can craft a comprehensive scheme to address 911 and E-911 services. Specifically, it gives the FCC authority and direction to set regulations to ensure that 911 and E-911 services are available to Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) customers taking into consideration the technological and operational feasibility of providing such service. It charges the FCC with setting a reasonable time frame for companies to come into compliance with the regulations. It also provides states with authority to enforce the FCC’s rules.

Second, the legislation ensures that IP phone companies have access to E911 components that may be controlled by competitors, which the FCC Order published in June did not do.

Third, S. 1063 provides the liability protection that public safety and industry groups need to be able to provide 911 service. This ensures public safety professionals are protected when taking calls from IP Voice service providers at all Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). Industry also needs this protection in order to acquire needed capital and insurance to be able to continue to bring this new and innovative service to consumers. The liability protection that is afforded in this bill is the same liability protection that current law extends to wireline and wireless companies for providing 911 service.

In addition, the bill provides a waiver process by which IP-enabled voice service providers may continue to add subscribers after December 31, 2005. These provisions address additional issues for IP Voice service providers in making E-911 calls in a system built around a wireline network. A waiver requires a provider to demonstrate to the FCC that the provider is technically or operationally unable to comply with its rules and then permits the FCC to grant waivers of limited duration, of not more than a year, that may also be limited in geographic area.


All in all, this can be viewed as a victory for VoIP providers. Still, in the interest of consumers, and in the interest of promoting VoIP as a viable alternative to traditional POTS offerings, our industry needs to see this Bill as a point from which to continue to build out state-of-the-art emergency capabilities, not as an excuse to sit on our hands waiting for some arbitrary future legislation that may or may not extend the deadline even further. Only when VoIP providers are able to consistently and confidently provide basic connectivity, reliable levels of quality, and the ability to reach emergency services can they even think about layering next-generation applications on top of their VoIP service.

And as I have been saying for years, it’s these services which are the Holy Grail of VoIP. Lost in all the arguments surrounding how to best market services, is the fact that we need to first get consumers and enterprise users alike to accept VoIP as a legitimate alternative, on a scale far beyond what we have seen to date. To this day, I still hear people knocking VoIP with charges of low quality, suspect reliability, and general technological immaturity. It’s tough to argue with them sometimes. When I had VoIP installed at my home, it worked fine for a few days, then I encountered a period of terrible voice quality, followed by a complete lack of service. It turned out to be a problem with the existing wiring in the house, but the fact is that I had no service for a while. I’m patient, and I am a huge proponent of VoIP, so I stuck with it, but I can sympathize with those users whose first impression is not a positive one.

And while I understand the need to get behind marketing terms like VoIP 2.0, Voice 2.0, Purple Minutes, etc., especially by and among those of us within the industry, it’s equally important that we do not lose sight of the fact that we need to provide consumers the MOST BASIC of services as a platform upon which we can then offer the real benefits of VoIP. Then we can begin to live the dream of personal, mobile, extensible, presence-aware, high-quality voice and all the incremental revenue-generating services that we as an industry have been talking about for years.

How I took off on that tangent, I still don’t know. But for all we’ve done and as far as we’ve come, we’ve still a long, long way to go before the technology I write about in this blog and in Internet Telephony magazine becomes invisible to the user, and what that technology enables simply becomes referred to as ‘communications.’

Feedback for Senate Committee Approves VoIP Bill

1 Comment

What is being done to prevent ISPs such as Comcast or Verizon to assign a lower Quality of Service (QoS) to VOIP services not provided by them? I provide a VOIP service to the residential market mainly, but I am concern that since the VOIP service I provide is using a 3rd party media controlled by the ISP, it is possible for the ISP to do a deep packet inspection and therefore assign a lower QoS to a VOIP service not provided by them.

Obviously, this deterioration of VOIP service will have negative impact on the consumer and on my business as well.

Is it legal for an ISP to do such manipulation of traffic, and if not, what can I do to ensure that it is not taking place?

Thank you for your comments



Featured Events