FCC Continues To Overreact To VoIP 911 Issue

from the cutting-people-off? dept

It’s amazing how a little hype can make a bunch of government officials overreact. There was a lot of press coverage earlier this year of a few cases where 911 service over VoIP connections didn’t work properly. That is, to be sure, an issue that should be dealt with, but the FCC seems to be going a bit overboard. First they mandated an amazingly short deadline for VoIP providers to be fully E911 compliant. Part of that ruling was that VoIP providers need to inform their customers clearly about the differences in VoIP 911 service and regular 911 service — and get acknowledgment from the users that they had been informed. I’ve already received emails and letters from my VoIP provider on this, requiring me to sign in a click a check box somewhere. This is already annoying some users who feel they’ve already made it clear they know what kind of 911 service they get from their VoIP provider and don’t want to be hassled to say so again. While the FCC did push back (by one month) the deadline for VoIP service providers to get a response from everyone, they also have announced that anyone who has not responded by August 29th will be cut off from their VoIP service. Yes, even if the VoIP provider is completely E911 compliant and it will work great, if the customer has not acknowledged they know about this, they have to be turned off. As Jeff Pulver notes very few mobile operators provide E911 yet — and the FCC isn’t telling them to notify people or turn customers off. Under this ruling, a customer who has perfect E911 service on their VoIP, but doesn’t acknowledge it, will lose his account — after which he or she can use a mobile phone in emergencies even though it might not have E911 set up. However, because all of the hype is focused on VoIP (and because the mobile operators have a tremendous amount of lobbying clout, which the VoIP providers have yet to build up) it’s the VoIP systems that get punished.

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