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FCC Nixes E911 Cutoff for VOIP Users

The Federal Communications Commission said yesterday that Internet phone operators do not have to terminate service to subscribers who cannot receive enhanced 911 emergency service. (PDF · MS Word) Under a ruling issued in May, providers would have had to suspend service to such subscribers on November 28, 2005. However, the FCC also said Internet phone providers have to stop marketing their services and accepting new customers in areas where they are unable to connect emergency 911 calls with the person’s location and telephone number.

VOIP provider Nuvio and others filed challenges to the November 28 cutoff date in the D.C. circuit Court of Appeals, claiming they face numerous technical hurdles in offering enhanced 911 service to VOIP users, including (but not limited to) accessing network and service databases of other telecommunications providers. Less than half (42 percent) of the VOIP providers surveyed by the Voice On the Net coalition said they would be able to provide enhanced 911 service to all their customers by the November 28 deadline (PDF).

VOIP providers generally welcome the FCC’s decision not to require them to terminate service to existing customers, the companies are concerned the FCC’s marketing restrictions will actually delay the availability of enhanced 911 service to VOIP users, since the marketing restrictions create an incentive for existing telecom providers