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FCC RELEASES ORDER REQUIRING INTERCONNECTED VOIP PROVIDERS TO OFFER E911 SERVICE WITHIN 120 DAYS; PROPOSES FURTHER RULEMAKING TO INVESTIGATE E911 REQUIREMENTS FOR "PORTABLE" VOIP
On June 3, 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the text of its May 19th decision requiring "interconnected" Voice over IP providers to offer customers E911/911 emergency calling services within 120 days of the effective date of its Order. The strict deadline will mean that VoIP providers offering services that satisfy the FCC's definition of an "interconnected VoIP services" must begin offering E911/911 to customers who utilize interconnected VoIP services at fixed locations sometime around October of this year.
The E911 rules apply to those VoIP services that can be used to receive telephone calls that originate on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and can be used to terminate calls to the PSTN -- such services being labeled by the FCC as "interconnected VoIP services." The FCC elaborates on its definition, as follows:
"If a VoIP service subscriber is able to receive calls from other VoIP service users and from telephones connected to the PSTN, and is able to place calls to other VoIP service user and to telephones connected to the PSTN, a customer reasonably could expect to be able to dial 911 using that service to access appropriate emergency services. Thus, [the FCC] believes that a service that enables a customer to do everything (or nearly everything) the customer could do using an analog telephone, and more, can at least reasonably be expected and required to route 911 calls to the appropriate destination.
. [t]hus, an interconnected VoIP service is one we define for purposes of the present Order as bearing the following characteris- tics: (1) the service enables real-time, two-way voice communications; (2) the service requires a broadband connection from the user's location; (3) the service requires IP-compatible CPE; and (4) the service offering permits users generally to receive calls that originate on the PSTN and to terminate calls to the PSTN."
The Rules require that, within 120 days of the Order's effective date, all entities satisfying the definition of an interconnected VoIP service provider must transmit all 911 calls, as well as a call back number and the caller's "Registered Location" for each call, to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), designated statewide default answering point, or appropriate local emergency authority that serves the caller's Registered Location and that has been designated for telecommunications carriers under section 64.3001 of the FCC's Rules. These calls must be routed through the use of ANI and, if necessary, pseudo-ANI, via the dedicated Wireline E911 Network, and the Registered Location must be available from or through the ALI Database.
The FCC recognizes that its 120 day implementation deadline is "aggressive." However, the FCC concluded that the threat to public safety exceeded any burdens on interconnected VoIP providers. The FCC offered the following advice:
"Interconnected VoIP providers may satisfy [FCC Rules] by interconnecting [with the PSAP or appropriate emergency services contact point] indirectly through a third party such as a competitive LEC. or through any other solution that allows a provider to offer E911 services [as required by the FCC's Rules].
Although the FCC notes that an increasing number of incumbent LECs have announced their intentions to make E911/911 access available to VoIP providers on commercial terms, the Rules adopted by the FCC neither mandate nor direct incumbent LECs to provide access pursuant any defined regulations. The FCC does imply, however, that ILECs that refuse to offer E911/911 services on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis could be subject to formal complaints and/or enforcement proceedings under Sections 201/202 of the Telecom Act.
The Rules adopted by the FCC will, for the most part, rely on customers to self-report his or her location to the service provider. The FCC noted, however, that in the future it intends to adopt an advanced E911 solution that must include a method for determining a user's location without assistance from the user.
In part to achieve this goal, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments on E911/911 rules for "portable" VoIP services. Comments are due 45 days after publication of the FCC's notice in the Federal Register and Replies are due 75 days after publication.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding how the FCC Order affects your business, you should contact your existing regulatory attorney, if you have one. You may also contact our firm for a consultation: (703) 714-1313, e-mail: email@example.com .
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