MELVILLE, New York, May 19 /PRNewswire/ -- The following quotes may be attributed to Jeff Pulver, CEO of pulver.com in response to the FCC's adoption of an order imposing E911 obligations on VoIP providers within 120 days:
The FCC Order is, no doubt, motivated by the most noble of goals -- reliable emergency response systems for all Americans. No one wants, or is pushing harder to implement these services, more than the VoIP industry itself. Most PSTN-connected VoIP providers currently provision at least basic 911 emergency services, and typically provision E911 for fixed locations. If the FCC Order, in fact, compels VoIP providers to offer technologically impossible enhanced911 obligations within 120 days of the Order's effective date, I fear the Order could put more Americans in harms way by denying consumers access to useful VoIP services and, in the process, could have detrimental consequences on the emerging IP-based communications industry, at least the smaller VoIP providers who cannot feasibly provide a nationwide E911 service within 120 days.
The FCC had a golden opportunity to take one positive steps to promote IP-based communications. The FCC could have prohibited "port blocking" and compelled direct access to the ILEC-controlled emergency response infrastructure. Instead, the FCC chose to regulate the previously unregulated, and declined to regulate those that it has obvious authority to regulate -- the traditional telecom carriers. As it stands, unaffiliated VoIP providers are left to the mercy or goodwill of their retail rivals -- the telecom carriers that control access to the emergency response network. The FCC has given lip-service to its desire to prohibit port blocking and has been looking for a vehicle to do so. A proceeding fell into its lap, and the FCC abdicated its responsibility on this issue. IP technology could allow for functions far beyond the capabilities of traditional communications networks, but it requires farsighted regulators to look at the technology with a fresh eye and a commitment not to stifle the potential and allow innovators to experiment and push the limits of IP technology.
Today, the FCC caved to the shortsighted vision and sacrificed our long-term emergency response capabilities and America's role as a leader in communications, the Internet and innovation. I, by no means, intend to belittle the noble goals behind a ubiquitous E911 solution, just the method by which the regulators intend to drive us there. I am convinced that IP technology will vastly improve emergency response capabilities. We all want the best possible emergency response capabilities to become available to all Americans -- all the world -- as soon as possible. I, however, do not want to see E911 used as an immediate tool to bring down the emerging industry, particularly the most vulnerable start-ups without the deep-pockets, resources, and political connections. Extending immediate E911 obligations on the smallest, most vulnerable, but most innovative IP-based communications providers does no one any good (except for providing a quick political sound bite). In the end, such actions might mean that no one will ever see the emergency response capabilities that IP-based communications working cooperatively with NENA could have produced.
What seems most bizarre to me is that the regulators don't even seem willing to give the unaffiliated VoIP providers the minimum set of tools necessary to accomplish their objective for a guaranteed nationwide E911 network that would allow anyone, anywhere to pick up any device, dial 911 and have an emergency responder find that caller. If regulators tell the industry to provide nationwide E911 for nomadic VoIP services, without simultaneously compelling fair access by unaffiliated VoIP providers to selective routers and prohibiting port blocking, how can they expect us to accomplish their mission? Make excessive demands on the never-before-regulated and most-vulnerable new start-ups, but don't dare impose any access obligation on the traditionally regulated entities, the only ones with the essential infrastructure?
I don't get it. It makes no sense to stifle the nomadic capability and essentially turn every IP-based communications service into a fixed line, because the added nomadic capability of an IP-based service does not avail itself of an immediate, ubiquitous, localized emergency response solution. Government will have essentially outlawed a valuable service without having evaluated whether having extra communications wherever there is an Internet connection could actually increase the potential that someone's life could be saved in an emergency. Unaffiliated VoIP providers, even if they had the time, staff and economic resources to work towards a nationwide solution would be at the mercy of carriers with whom the VoIP provider would have to partner in order to establish a nationwide E911 service. The bottom line is that a nationwide solution does not exist and will not exist in 120 days. If nomadic VoIP services can operate anywhere there is a broadband connection, it is impossible for a nomadic VoIP service provider to be in compliance with our current understanding of the FCC's likely rule.
VoIP, by its very nature, should empower a user to take her service anywhere without having to check with the VoIP provider to verify that the particular remote location has an arrangement with the VoIP provider. It is one thing to compel a primary fixed-line provider, be it VoIP or traditional telephony, to provide E911 capabilities, but what logic would be served from turning off the nomadic capability of IP technology simply because the user cannot access a local emergency response system when she attaches her computer with a softphone program or other IP phone to a broadband connection at a hotel or other remote location? Isn't it possible that a person at a Starbucks who witnesses an armed robbery and shooting might be able to save a life by being able to either dial the police or dial basic 911 using her nomadic VoIP solution rather than preventing any calls because there isn't an E911 capability? Instead of focusing on the US marketplace, the voice over broadband entrepreneurs, may instead decide to focus their business activities in countries that have a more forward looking IP-based communications strategy.
Then again, the pending FCC rulemaking may finally be the shot in the arm the VoIP entrepreneurs need to come forward with communication services that are not using VoIP as simple replacement or substitute services, but rather use IP technology to launch new communication services and applications -- something much truer to the vision of what an IP-enabled platform promises and not just copycat products or services. Admittedly, the limited communications network we call the PSTN controls virtually every communications consumer out there. There was once a time when the stagecoach controlled most of the transcontinental traffic. Some day, perhaps now even sooner than some anticipated, the wireline PSTN will be relegated to be little more than a minor, single-lane off-ramp on the IP-based network of networks.
Jeff Pulver is the President and CEO of pulver.com, and one of the true pioneers of the Internet telephony/VoIP industry. Mr. Pulver is a globally renowned thought leader, author and entrepreneur. He is the publisher of The Pulver Report and VON magazine, and creator of the industry standard Voice on the Net (VON) conferences. Additionally, Mr. Pulver is the founder of Free World Dialup (FWD), the VON Coalition, LibreTel, WHP Wireless, pulverinnovations, Digisip, and is the co-founder of VoIP provider, Vonage. Last year, the FCC granted Pulver's petition for clarification declaring Free World Dialup as an unregulated information service. The landmark Pulver Order was the first decision made by any major regulatory body on IP communications, and provided important clarification that computer-to-computer VoIP service is not a telecommunications service. For more information, please visit.
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