Internet phone companies ask FCC to modify 911 rules

Internet phone companies ask FCC to modify 911 rules


A group of Internet telephone service providers in the US have made an appeal to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make changes in an emergency services ruling that compels them to disconnect many customers by next week. Led by AT&T and MCI, the Internet service providers formally submitted their memorandum on Thursday.

The order was issued back in May, the FCC had asked these providers to ensure emergency 911 calls go directly to emergency dispatchers and had given time till the end of November to provide the location of callers by Nov. 29. The order had further specified that any customer failing to reply by August 29 should be liable for disconnection of his Internet phone service. The FCC had issued the order after listening to the complaints of many parents that their emergency 911 calls only reached administrative offices of service providers and that finding the caller’s location is very difficult with these services.

In their plea to the FCC, the internet phone service providers, however, have argued that cutting customers off “would inevitably impede commerce and cause consumer inconvenience and could even leave VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) customers stranded in an emergency.”

Though the FCC is yet to react to this move officially, murmuring protests against rule 911 are now gaining momentum. A small provider has already challenged the rules in court and Florida state officials have warned the FCC that disconnecting VOIP customers could be disastrous especially during hurricane season. According to an estimate, presently there are about 2.5 million U.S. VOIP customers in the US, and even if 10% fail to meet the response deadline, it would translate into a sizeable number of 250,000 disconnections.