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Regulation

FCC Extends Initial E-911 Deadline

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday gave PSTN-connected VOIP providers a 30-day extension on one of the first requirements of the Commission’s June 3 E-911 order (see Sources: FCC Will Force VOIP E911).

VOIP providers had until midnight Monday to disconnect all subscribers who had not acknowledged letters sent to them advising that their 911 service is not yet “enhanced 911.” For most VOIP subscribers, this means that 911 emergency personnel cannot automatically locate the caller when they call for help (see Vonage to Buy E911 Service From RBOCs).

The "acknowledge or disconnect" deadline has now been moved to September 28.

"There is definitly a sigh of relief today,” says Voice On the Net (VON) Coalition president Staci Pies of VOIP providers' reaction to the FCC’s action Friday. “There was a lot of concern from the market on this issue. A lot of them were looking at it from a marketing perspective and asking what kind of impression do you make on your customers if you’re telling them, ‘Oh and we may cut you off at any moment.' "

The extention comes in the wake of number of last-minute filings by a coalition of VOIP providers, including MCI Inc. (Nasdaq: MCIP) and AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), requesting more time to comply (see VOIP Carriers Track 911 Solutions).

The VON Coalition warned the commission that a service cutoff August 29 “may both undermine the commission’s efforts to promote competition and innovation by damaging VOIP providers’ relationships with their customers and put consumers and businesses at risk of harm.”

Under the FCC’s June 3 E-911 order, VOIP providers face a November 16 deadline for full E-911 compliance. At least one VOIP provider has already challenged the order in federal court (see Nuvio Appeals FCC Order).

The Commission has been sensitive on the issue since reports six months ago of cases in Texas and Florida where imperiled VOIP users dialed 911 but failed to reach emergency help (see Texas: Vonage 911 Is a Joke).

The FCC has talked tough and shuffled several piles of paper relating to E-911 so far. The Commission required a detailed status report from all VOIP providers on August 10, and expects to receive additional reports on September 1 and 22.

The Commission also suggested that VOIP providers could comply with the September 28 deadline by using a “soft cutoff,” meaning that the non-responding subscribers would be stripped of all VOIP service, except 911.

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

Mark Sullivan 12/5/2012 | 3:03:52 AM
re: FCC Extends Initial E-911 Deadline It is yet to be seen if Friday's action will lead to more extensions. And full E911 compliance seems like a tall order for VOIP providers who hadn't already been working on it before the FCC ruled. Is it realistic? Or will it turn into a long, drawn out process like it did in the wireless world? GĒō Mark
AlecWest 12/5/2012 | 3:03:36 AM
re: FCC Extends Initial E-911 Deadline If the FCC needs to mandate anything, it should be a two-tier service level - BASIC (no 911) and ENHANCED (completely e911 compliant). The misunderstandings, lawsuits, and deadlines we now see today are the direct result of the FCC's inability to tackle this problem early on, leaving a confusing and variable "middle-ground" of 911 scenarios. And, they KNEW it was coming. Some VoIP providers are already e911 compliant. A 2-tier scenario would allow market pressure, not mandates, to determine who offers what. And consumers wouldn't have cut-offs to worry about, they'd have 2 distinct "options" to consider - a provider who offers no 911 service at all, or a provider who offers 911 service as the term "911" is traditionally understood.
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