I got to sit in on an IPCC meeting which discussed how CLECs can transition into VoIP. Staci Pies had a great talk on 911in which the issue of liability came up. Who is liable when service providers lose broadband service? For example some VoIP providers lost access to the Internet recently due to the Cogent and Level 3 dispute.
Much of the discussion centered around whether you need to protect yourself from the FCC or from liability from consumers or both. But just because you are in compliance with FCC 911 rules you may not be protected from consumer lawsuits. VoIP providers do not enjoy the same protection from liability as PSTN-based service providers.
Staci mentioned it may help to be in FCC compliance if you are sued.
Another topic that came up is that the people in the FCC are very smart and very busy so they may not always have time to deal with the technical issues of VoIP. For example Skype Out and Skype in are services that are ala carte so if you have Skype Out but not Skype In the PSAP can’t call you back if needed.
The point is that VoIP is so different from the PSTN that it defies complexity when trying to regulate it. This is me talking, not Staci. In my opinion the government really needs to understand VoIP if they want to take an active part in regulating the market. They are applying old paradigms to a totally new industry and this just won’t work.
Getting back to the talk, dual mode handsets make the situation stickier. Who is liable of there is a problem with such a device? Staci said once we can dynamically determine the location of a handset we will be in much better shape.
One of the areas that needs clarification is where the cost recovery will come from for PSAPs when upgrading their networks. They are under funded to begin with and now they may need to upgrade to IP.
I wish I could have stayed for the whole meeting but had so much to do and so many places to go, people to see, etc. I am off to dinner now and hope to report on other happenings soon.