VoIP Providers Required to Provide Enhanced 911 Services
In Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) FCC 05-116, the Commission required "Interconnected VoIP providers" (voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP) to provide enhanced 911 (E911) emergency calling capabilities to their customers as a mandatory feature of the service. The Commission has not released the Order and NPRM, but the News Release outlines the new rules.
Interconnected VoIP service providers allow their customers to receive calls from and terminate calls to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The Commission did not place obligations on other IP-based service providers, such as those that provide instant messaging or Internet gaming services, because customers of these services cannot receive calls from and place calls to the PSTN, even though the services may contain a voice component.
What the new rules provide
Interconnected VoIP providers must deliver all 911 calls to the customer's local emergency operator as a standard, rather than optional, feature of the service.
Interconnected VoIP providers must provide emergency operators with the call back number and location information of their customers where the emergency operator is capable of receiving it. The customer must provide the location information, but the VoIP provider must provide the customer a means of updating that information, whether the customer is at home or away from home.
By the effective date, interconnected VoIP providers must inform their customers, both new and existing, of the E911 capabilities and limitations of their service.
Incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) must provide access to their E911 networks to any requesting telecommunications carrier, and must continue to provide access to trunks, selective routers, and E911 databases to competing carriers. The Commission stated it "will closely monitor this obligation."
Interconnected VoIP providers must comply with the new rules, and submit to the Commission a letter detailing their compliance, no later than 120 days after the effective date of the Order (which will be the date of publication in the Federal Register). It is likely the Commission will expedite the process and publish in the Federal Register in no more than 45 days, which would make the effective date around the end of 2005.
The Commission stated its intention to adopt, in a future order, an advanced E911 solution that includes a method for determining the customer's location without the customer having to report that information to the VoIP provider.