Currently, the FCC’s VoIP E911 requirements apply only to two-way interconnected VoIP providers. This could soon change. On July 12, 2011, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) seeking comment on whether to extend the 911 obligations to outbound-only interconnected VoIP service providers. Outbound-only VoIP services allow users to place outbound calls to the PSTN, but not to receive inbound calls from the PSTN. The FCC has never required one-way VoIP providers to provide 911 services. However, in light of the increase in consumer access and use of these one-way/outbound-only interconnected VoIP services, the FCC seems poised to cast its regulatory net to capture outbound-only interconnected VoIP service providers and require them to adhere to the same 911 mandates imposed on two-way interconnected VoIP providers.
In the NPRM the FCC also considers whether it should revise the current definition of interconnected VoIP service to address changes in technology. In 2005, the FCC defined interconnected VoIP service as a service that (1) enables real-time, two-way voice communications; (2) requires a broadband connection from the user’s location; (3) requires Internet protocol-compatible customer premises equipment; and (4) permits users generally to receive calls that originate on the PSTN and to terminate calls to the PSTN. The FCC is considering two technical modifications to this definition. The first is whether the FCC should modify the definition’s second prong to specify an “Internet connection,” rather than a broadband connection. The second consideration is whether the FCC should modify the definition’s fourth prong to define connectivity in terms of the ability to connect calls to United States E.164 telephone numbers rather than the PSTN.
The Commission also is considering whether it should establish a framework to ensure that all interconnected VoIP providers can provide automatic location information for VoIP 911 calls, rather than relying on the subscriber to register his or her location with the VoIP provider.
FILING OF COMMENTS
The deadline for filing comments on the proposed expansion of VoIP 911 requirements and modification of the definition of interconnected VoIP service will be established when the NPRM is published in the Federal Register. Any company that provides VoIP services will likely be affected by the final FCC rules resulting from this proceeding. Therefore, we recommend that all VoIP providers take advantage of the opportunity to influence the scope of those rules by submitting comments.
See here for the FCC’s NPRM: VoIP 911 NPRM
Please contact your assigned attorney if you are interested in filing comments or if you have questions about the implications and potential impact these proposed rules will have on your business.