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Cable Meets FCC's New VoIP E911 Requirements

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order yesterday requiring voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) phone service providers supply enhanced 911 (E911) emergency calling capabilities to their customers within 120 days. The cable industry's PacketCable specifications already define full E-911 support, so MSOs rolling out VoIP services using the technology already comply with the mandate. The FCC order follows several recent incidents where VoIP users dialed 911 but were not able to reach emergency operators. The most highly-publicized case involved a Vonage customer in Florida. The woman dialed 911 for her ailing infant only to reach a recording, a delay she claimed cost her daughter's life. The FCC order applies only to 'interconnected VoIP service providers that are similar to traditional telephone providers in that they enable customers to receive calls from and terminate calls to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).' The FCC noted the order 'does not place obligations on other IP-based service providers, such as those that provide instant messaging or Internet gaming services, because although these services may contain a voice component, customers of these services cannot receive calls from and place calls to the PSTN.' Specifically the FCC order concluded: * Interconnected VoIP providers must deliver all 911 calls to the customer's local emergency operator. This must be a standard, rather than optional, feature of the service. * Interconnected VoIP providers must provide emergency operators with the call back number and location information of their customers (i.e., E911) where the emergency operator is capable of receiving it. Although the customer must provide the location information, the VoIP provider must provide the customer a means of updating this information, whether he or she is at home or away from home. * By the effective date, interconnected VoIP providers must inform their customers, both new and existing, of the E911 capabilities and limitations of their service. * The incumbent LECs are required to provide access to their E911 networks to any requesting telecommunications carrier. They must continue to provide access to trunks, selective routers, and E911 databases to competing carriers. The
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