By Jeremy Pelofsky
Internet telephone providers do not have to cut off U.S. subscribers
even if they are not provided enhanced 911 emergency service which
gives dispatchers their location and phone number, U.S. communications
regulators said on Monday.
Internet telephone providers like Nuvio Corp. had worried that the
Federal Communications Commission rules adopted in May had required
them to suspend by November 28 service for subscribers who cannot
receive enhanced 911 (E911) service.
Existing customers did not have to be disconnected, but the FCC said
Internet telephone providers would have to cease marketing and
accepting new customers in areas where they are not connecting 911
calls with the person's location and phone number, according to
guidance issued on Monday.
Nuvio and other providers of Internet phone service, known as Voice
over Internet Protocol (VOIP), last week filed challenges with the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit seeking to stay the
November 28 date pending their challenge.
VOIP providers have complained that they face numerous hurdles to
offering enhanced 911 service, including accessing the necessary
databases operated by other telecommunications providers.
"Our concern is that this marketing restriction will slow down our
deployment of E911 because it gives clear incentives to some of our
competitors, who control access to the 911 systems, to delay every way
possible," said Chris Murray, vice president for government affairs at
Vonage Holdings Corp., the biggest U.S. VOIP provider.
The FCC adopted several E911 rules for VOIP in May, including
requiring 911 calls be routed to live dispatchers and the caller's
location and number be identified. The move followed instances in
which customers had trouble reaching help when they dialed 911.
The FCC had eased an earlier requirement that VOIP providers suspend
service for those customers who failed to acknowledge the limitations
of 911 capability with it.
The Voice On the Net Coalition, which represents many VOIP providers,
said that roughly 750,000 customers could be affected if they had to
suspend service to those who did not have enhanced 911 service
Less than half of the dozen VOIP providers surveyed by the coalition,
42 percent, said they would be able to provide enhanced 911 service to
100 percent of their customers with a primary fixed location by
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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