VoIP Off The E911 Hook — Sort Of

Internet telephone companies do not have to disconnect their existing
customers by Nov. 28 even if the Voice over IP provider does
not offer full E911 emergency calling.

That’s the good news, according to a new Federal Communications Commission
(FCC) order (PDF file) issued Monday night. The bad news: The companies can’t market their service to any more new customers without fully provisioning E911.

Monday’s order reverses the disconnection requirement ordered in May for existing customers. However, it upholds the mandate against offering any new service without E911, a provision the Internet telephone firms say is impossible to meet by Nov. 28 and will be financially disastrous to the quickly emerging industry.

“Internet telephone providers do not have to cut off U.S. subscribers even
if they are not provided enhanced 911 emergency service,” the FCC order
states. “We do expect that such providers will discontinue marketing VoIP
service, and accepting new customers for their service, in all areas where
they are not transmitting 911 calls.”

Last week, VoIP wholesaler Nuvio and other VoIP providers went to federal court seeking an immediate stay of the FCC order.

Jason Talley, CEO of Nuvio, 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.

“At first blush, it appears they [FCC] are making some concessions on
existing customers, but it still smacks to me of protectionism for the RBOCs
and cable companies,” Talley told internetnews.com.

Overall, Talley said, the Monday FCC order “doesn’t answer many of our
issues and concerns.”

The FCC is expected to file its response to Nuvio’s stay request
later today in the U.S. Court of Federal Appeals in Washington.

Siding with Nuvio and the other VoIP providers, the Senate Commerce
Committee last week approved legislation calling for a phased VoIP E911
implementation. The bill would force the FCC to take into consideration the
“technological and operational feasibility” of rolling out E911 VoIP

The legislation, even if ultimately passed by the Senate and House, is not likely to become law before the end of the month, putting the
issue fully in the hands of the court.

“We are quite concerned about the ban on signing up new customers, as well as
the marketing restrictions included in the notice,” a Nuvio spokesman said
in an official statement. “We look forward to reviewing the FCC’s brief in
response to our request for a partial emergency stay with the U.S. Court of
Appeals, which is due today at 4 p.m.”

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