The Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved a 10-page measure that will require Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to provide a reliable 911 system to their customers. The measure will also require that state and local governments to levy taxes on VoIP service providers in exchange for providing access to 911 dispatchers. Internet phone providers have 120 days to improve the current 911 situations.
The new FCC Chairman, Kevin Martin stated, “The requirement to provide access to 911 is about public safety. Because the commission previously found that the VoIP services at issue were interstate, the commission assumed the responsibility to ensure that basic public safety requirements are implemented and satisfied.”
Currently VoIP service users who dial 911 run into many problems such as being redirected to administrative offices instead of a dispatcher. Also, when calls are received by dispatchers contact information for the caller such as the telephone number and location of the caller is not provided with the current VoIP 911 system. The lack of a reliable 911 system has brought several lawsuits against VoIP providers.
Sen. Conrad Burn, a sponsor of the bill made the comment, “The few seconds it takes someone to realize that their broadband connection cannot reach 911 can be the difference between life and death, and we cannot waste that time during an emergency.”
VoIP providers are being required to update and inform all customers, both new and old, of the limitations and problems that can come with calling 911 from a VoIP phone. The measure will require that 911 dispatchers must receive all calls to 911 and that the calls are accompanied by the caller’s information and location.
“Anyone who dials 911 has a reasonable expectation that he or she will be connected to an emergency operator. This expectation exists whether that person is dialing 911 from a traditional wire line phone, a wireless phone or a VoIP phone,” states Martin, “Today, we take this action to ensure this expectation is met as soon as possible.
Broadband phone service subscribers can check with their current VoIP provider for updates to their VoIP 911 plans. New updates and changes are being added to VoIP to meet the FCC’s new regulation so VoIP users are encouraged to check with their VoIP providers.
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