Internet Phone Carriers Still Seeking 911 Replies

By Jeremy Pelofsky

Some of the top U.S. Internet phone providers told U.S. regulators this week they are still trying to obtain acknowledgments from customers that they know the limitations of dialing 911 with their service.

Some customers of Internet phone service, known as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), have had trouble getting help when dialing the emergency number 911, which prompted the Federal Communications Commission to order changes.

Unlike traditional phone service, not all Internet phones provide 911 dispatchers with the location of callers, and some calls have been routed to administrative lines that are not always monitored.

The FCC in May ordered companies to fix those issues by late November and, in the interim, to get acknowledgments from all customers that they understand those service limitations. Analysts estimate there are more than 2 million VOIP customers.

Vonage Holdings Corp., the biggest U.S. Internet phone provider, said it has received acknowledgments from more than 90 percent of its customers but was unable to predict whether it would achieve the 100 percent goal by an August 29 deadline.

"Vonage is continuing its campaign to contact and obtain affirmative acknowledgment from all of its customers," the company told the FCC. Dozens of carriers reported that they were contacting customers via letters, calls and e-mails.

"Vonage expects to send out at least one e-mail per week and to continue to restrict account access of subscribers who have not yet submitted an affirmative acknowledgment," it said in an August 10 filing.

AT&T Corp. said that it had received affirmative replies from 77 percent of its customers as of August 9, but about 10 percent of its Internet phone customers may not provide acknowledgments by the deadline.

Net2Phone said 98 percent of its own customers had provided acknowledgments and the company was still working on the remaining 2 percent.

The FCC initially ordered companies to obtain acknowledgments from all customers by July 29 but then gave companies an extra month as long as they filed a report detailing their efforts.

The FCC said only those companies that filed reports about their compliance efforts by August 10 would escape enforcement action for violations until the end of the month.

The agency said service should be disconnected for those customers who have not provided an acknowledgment by then.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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