VoIP Provider Challenges E911 Mandate

Nuvio says the FCC knew Internet telephony companies couldn't overcome technological challenges before deadline.

By Roy Mark | Posted Aug 15, 2005
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Challenges continue to mount for the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) mandate that Voice over IP providers make enhanced 911 (E911) services available to their customers nationwide by Nov. 28.

Monday, wholesale VoIP provider Nuvio appealed the order and asked the court to expedite the decision no later than Nov. 7. T-Mobile and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), along with trade groups CompTel and the VON Coalition, have already filed with the FCC for further clarification of the May 19 order.

The Kansas-based Nuvio, however, is the first to take the matter to court.

"Nuvio fully supports the FCC's goal of protecting public safety, but respectfully submits that some of the specific requirements are subject to substantial challenge," Nuvio stated in its filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.

Nuvio characterized the FCC order as "unreasonable, arbitrary, and because technologically infeasible, capricious."

According to Nuvio, the FCC knew the technological obstacles were "nowhere near being overcome" when the agency imposed a 120-day transition period for VoIP providers to install E911 on their systems.

Because of the inherent portability of VoIP and the ability to use the service wherever a broadband connection is available, Internet telephone services frequently route 911 calls to public safety administrative offices instead of directly sending the calls to Public Service Answering Points.

"[The FCC order] effectively places on each VoIP provider a requirement to provide E911 service everywhere in the United States," the Nuvio filing states.

The new FCC rules mandate that Internet telephone companies deliver all 911 calls to the customer's local emergency operator. VoIP firms are required to provide the emergency operators with a callback number and the location information of their customers.

The FCC also ordered incumbent carriers to work with VoIP providers on the 911 issues, but did not specify either timeframes or cost.

In addition to the looming Nov. 28 deadline, the FCC is also requiring VoIP providers to inform both their new and existing customers of nomadic 911 capabilities and limitations and receive and record affirmative acknowledgements from each customer.

Customers who fail to make the acknowledgement faced the possibility of their VoIP service being discontinued. To further underscore the point, the FCC ordered providers to distribute warning labels to subscribers about possible VoIP 911 limitations.

Last month, the FCC granted VoIP providers another 30 days until the end of August to inform customers and obtain acknowledgements.

"Even [Nuvio's] best efforts are unlikely to create complete compliance, dependent as they must be on undeveloped technology and the rapid cooperation of third parties," Nuvio states.

Nuvio also feels the VoIP industry is being unfairly singled out since wireless carriers are not likely to be fully compliant with an FCC order to have 95 percent of their customers using a handset capable of providing location data.

According to the Nuvio filing, "Where the mobile wireless industry requires in excess of 10 years to meet its E911 obligations, [the FCC] expects VoIP providers to provide nationwide E911 access in 120 days."

Nuvio CEO Jason Talley said in a separate statement, "In fact, the record clearly shows that wireless companies have been given decades to implement this type of 911 service and are still far from completion."

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