FCC screws the VoIP industry AGAIN!

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FCC screws the VoIP industry AGAIN!

After the recent Senate action forcing the FCC to back down from cutting off access to VoIP subscribers, it appears the FCC has found a new hoop for the VoIP service providers to jump through, which I will explain in a bit. The FCC decided to back down from forcing VoIP service providers to cut off callers who can't dial into the enhanced 911 network by the Nov. 28 deadline. In killing the e911 cutoff requirement, the FCC decided instead to require VoIP providers to file a letter detailing how much of their subscriber base can receive E911 service.

But in a move that seems like a response to the FCC's bruised ego, the FCC appears to be responding to the Senate ruling by coming up with a new impossible requirement for the VoIP service providers. I guess the FCC didn't like having to extend the cutoff deadline multiple times only to have the Senate step in and tell them "no, you can't do that". Talk about egg on the face. You want to know the new ridiculous requirement? Well, the FCC order states, "Although we do not require providers that have not achieved full 911 compliance by November 28, 2005, to discontinue the provision of interconnected VoIP service to any existing customers, we do expect that such providers will discontinue marketing VoIP service, and accepting new customers for their service, in all areas where they are not transmitting 911 calls to the appropriate PSAP in full compliance with the Commission’s rules."

In order words, if you live in a rural area you will NOT be able to sign up as a new customer to any VoIP service provider that does not provide e911 support in that area. The FCC expects VoIP companies to stop marketing their services and accepting new customers in areas that cannot perform E911 call routing. Even if this same area has "basic" 911 service, that isn't good enough for the FCC. So if you want to have inexpensive, feature-rich VoIP service from Vonage, Packet8, AT&T CallVantage, etc. you'd better sign up now before the deadline.

Gee, I wonder how this affects the Vonage IPO now that Vonage will be much more limited in new customer acquisition? Thank you Mr. FCC, you just hurt the wallet of all those Vonage insiders that were hoping to make millions on the Vonage IPO. Not that I care much for those holding any Vonage stock options...

And what's the deal with sucking up to the carriers? Look at this quote in the FCC's statement:

"In addition, the Bureau takes this opportunity to commend the steps undertaken by AT&T Corp. (AT&T), MCI, Inc. (MCI) and Verizon Communications, Inc. (Verizon) to comply with the Commission’s VoIP 911 provisioning requirements, as outlined in recent letters they filed in the above referenced dockets."

The FCC taking time to thank the traditional carriers? Gee, how nice. I smell a lobbying conspiracy against the VoIP service providers!

I realize AT&T has their highly-touted 911 "heartbeat" method which cuts off service until the customer enters in their location data, but AT&T is still limited by e911 coverage in rural areas as the rest of the VoIP service providers. So AT&T won't be able to add new CallVantage customers either in rural areas. Thank you FCC for your thanks, but no thanks. I can't help but think of Animal House's famous line: "Thank you sir (FCC), may I have another".

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