Congress, VoIPs Move to Delay E911

VoIP industry goes to court while lawmakers move to delay a Nov. 28 deadline for E911 compliance.

By Roy Mark | Posted Nov 3, 2005
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WASHINGTON -- The race is on in both the courts and Congress to kill a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order that all Internet telephone companies provide E911 service by Nov. 28. The VoIP industry says the order is impossible to meet and will be financially ruinous.

After that date, the FCC ruled this summer, VoIP providers who cannot fully provision mobile emergency calling service must disconnect current customers and may not lawfully offer Internet voice service to consumers.

Wednesday afternoon, VoIP wholesaler Nuvio and three other Internet voice providers went to federal court here seeking an immediate stay of the order. The providers said the 120-day VoIP E911 implementation period is arbitrary and capricious since the wireless industry was given 10 years to meet its E911 obligations.

"The same public safety issue existed in past cases in which the FCC chose to defer 911 deployment including, most notably, the wireless telephone industry," Nuvio's motion states.

The court gave the FCC until Tuesday to respond and a ruling is expected by Nov. 18.

Further up the street on Capitol Hill, lawmakers began pushing out legislation to moot the FCC ruling. The Senate Commerce Committee approved a bill that calls for a phased VoIP E911 implementation. The bill would also allow VoIP providers to retain their present customers and continue to recruit new ones during a four-year phase-in period.

The legislation forces the FCC to take into consideration the "technological and operational feasibility" of implementing E911 VoIP services. The legislation now moves to the Senate floor.

Which can't be fast enough for Nuvio.

"The FCC simply ignored overwhelming evidence that [VoIP providers] could not possibly comply within 120 days," states the Nuvio motion. "It gave no weight at all to the nascent stage of the VoIP market [or] the costs and technical burdens faced by [providers] in seeking to implement E911."

The harm to the VoIP industry, the motion contends, will be "both certain and great; actual and not theoretical."

Nuvio CEO Jason Talley added in a statement, "No VoIP provider will be able to completely comply with the FCC rules unless further clarification is given."

Talley said Nuvio has made repeated requests for direction from the FCC, but to date he has received no response.

"What we have been seeking from the FCC is some acknowledgment of parity between VoIP and wireless 911 deployments," Talley said. "The FCC [has] been unable or unwilling to answer rudimentary questions about how the deadline will affect users on November 28."

The FCC's lack of direction, he noted, left Nuvio and other providers "no choice but to ask the court to stay these arbitrary and untenable rules."

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