VoIP Providers Win Major Victory

The FCC may have been a bit too hasty in requiring VoIP providers a short window to provide nationwide E-911 compliance. The original deadline was in August of this year. Not only did the FCC have to subsequently push back the deadline for compliance but the Senate Commerce Committee today pushed back the deadline for full 911 compliance to up to four years. The deadline will be pushed in one year increments based on waivers granted by the FCC. These waivers will be granted if compliance is not technically or operationally feasible at the time.

The legislation, S. 1063, waives the current November deadline and requires revised FCC rules within 120 days from the date the bill is enacted. Providers still have to warn subscribers that 911 and E-911 service is unavailable and receive confirmation from subscribers that this message is understood. The bill goes on to waive E-911 rules for up to four years if the service provider meets a specific set of tests.

Coincidentally today I wrote an article which mentioned how many service providers have criticized the short deadline imposed by the FCC so I can tell you first-hand that a number of these providers will be thrilled about this news.

One of the more important parts of this bill is the requirement that our pubic safety 911 system be modernized. In short I hope this means the PSAPs will go IP. Back in October of 2004 I mentioned that PSAPs can benefit immensely from the power of VoIP and I am happy to see that the migration to IP telephony may actually happen in many if not all PSAPs in the country.

The bill also treats VoIP providers like wireless and wireline carriers in another vital area as public safety officials are now immune from lawsuits when they accept VoIP calls. Prior to this bill they were not and many in our industry were unhappy about this point.

The bill also does wonders for providers who were afraid they would have to cut off customers. As long as these customers subscribe before the end of 2005 and acknowledge certain 911 limitations they cannot be disconnected.

In order for this bill to become law it needs to be approved by Congress and then signed by the president. The day the president signs this bill cannot come soon enough in my opinion.

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