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FCC to I-VoIP Providers: We are very serious about E911 services!

FCC to I-VoIP Providers: We are very serious about E911 services!
By Matthew Schulman

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is very serious about enforcing the recent FCC Enforcement Bureau order requiring that E911 services be provided by all Interconnected Voice Over Internet Protocol (I-VoIP) Service Providers.

On July 26, 2005, the FCC Enforcement Bureau (FCC-EB) released a Public Notice designed to provide guidance to I-VoIP Service Providers Concerning the July 29, 2005 “Subscriber Notification Deadlines” regarding enhanced 911 (E911) capability.


Background:

The original order adopted on May 19, 2005 and released on June 3, 2005 established the FCC’s VoIP E911 rules required I-VoIP providers to:

1 Deliver all 911 calls to the customer’s local emergency operator;

2 Give emergency operators the call back number and location information of their customers where the emergency operator is capable of receiving it; and

3 Inform their customers of their E911 capabilities and limitations of their service.

This Order was effective July 29, 2005, at which time all I-VoIP providers were required to be in compliance with the “customer notification requirements”. This date has come and passed, with most I-VoIP providers not complying with the requirements. The next major deadline occurs 120 days after the effective date where all I-VoIP carriers must be able to provide E911 services to their customers and submit a compliance letter to the FCC attesting to their capabilities.


New Order Extends Deadline:

The FCC-EB announced that it would extend the original July 29, 2005 “affirmative acknowledgment” deadline by 30 days to August 29, 2005, IF I-VoIP providers have met certain reporting requirements by August 10, 2005. I-VoIP providers were required to obtain affirmative acknowledgments by July 29, 2005 from 100% of their subscribers that they have read and understood an advisory concerning the limitations of their E911 service. Any customers that did NOT supply an “affirmative acknowledgment” response were to have their service terminated, and that deadline has also been extended to August 29, 2005.

To be eligible for this extension, providers must have met the reporting requirements outlined below, by August 10, 2005. The FCC-EB is maintaining a “flexible” position depending on the “sufficiency of the reports filed” by I-VoIP providers and will “take subsequent action as necessary. In other words, file your reports, and do them correctly!

Based on the FCC’s June 3, 2005 VoIP E911 Order, by July 29, 2005, all providers of interconnected VoIP (I-VoIP) service were supposed to:

• Specifically advise every new and existing subscriber, prominently and in plain language, of the circumstances under which E911 service may not be available through the interconnected VoIP service or may be in some way limited by comparison to traditional E911 service;

• Obtain and keep a record of affirmative acknowledgment by every subscriber, both new and existing, of having received and understood the advisory described in the paragraph above; and

• Distribute to its existing subscribers warning stickers or other appropriate labels warning subscribers if E911 service may be limited or not available and instructing the subscriber to place them on or near the equipment used in conjunction with the interconnected VoIP service. Each interconnected VoIP provider should distribute such warning stickers or other appropriate labels to each new subscriber prior to the initiation of that subscriber’s service.

Many providers ask: “What defines Interconnected VoIP (I-VoIP) service?“ I-VoIP service means an interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) 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 public switched telephone network (PSTN) and to terminate calls to the PSTN.

The FCC-EB has stated that it will not initiate enforcement action, until August 30, 2005, against any provider of I-VoIP service regarding the requirement that it obtain affirmative acknowledgment by every existing subscriber on the condition that the provider file a detailed report with the Commission by August 10, 2005, containing the information described below.
During this brief extension, I-VoIP providers will have the ability to continue obtaining affirmative acknowledgments from their customer base. The FCC-EB also stated that all I-VoIP subscribers that have not provided acknowledgments to their I-VoIP Providers by August 29, 2005, will be disconnected no later than August 30, 2005. WOW!

To obtain the extension thru August 29, 2005, each I-VoIP provider must prepare a report utilizing the following FCC report guidelines:


Subscriber Notification and Acknowledgment Status and Compliance Reports

The report to the Commission should include:

• A detailed description of all actions the provider has taken to specifically advise every subscriber, prominently and in plain language, of the circumstances under which E911 service may not be available through the interconnected VoIP service and/or may be in some way limited by comparison to traditional E911 service. This information should include, but is not limited to, relevant dates and methods of contact with subscribers (i.e., e-mail, U. S. mail);

• A quantification of how many of the provider’s subscribers, on a percentage basis, have submitted an affirmative acknowledgment, as of the date of the report, and an estimation of the percentage of subscribers from whom they do not expect to receive an acknowledgment by August 29, 2005;

• A detailed description of whether and how the provider has distributed to all subscribers warning stickers or other appropriate labels warning subscribers if E911 service may be limited or not available and instructing the subscriber to place them on and/or near the customer premises equipment used in connection with the interconnected VoIP service. This information should include, but is not limited to, relevant dates and methods of contact with subscribers (i.e., e-mail, U. S. mail);

• A quantification of how many subscribers, on a percentage basis, to whom the provider did not send the advisory described in the first bullet above and/or to whom the provider did not send warning stickers or other appropriate label as identified in the bullet immediately above;

• A detailed description of any and all actions the provider plans on taking towards any of its subscribers that do not affirmatively acknowledge having received and understood the advisory, including, but not limited to, disconnecting the subscriber’s VoIP service with the Company no later than August 30, 2005;

• A detailed description of how the provider is currently maintaining any acknowledgments received from its subscribers; and

• The name, title, address, phone number, and e-mail address of the person(s) responsible for the Company’s compliance efforts with the VoIP E911 Order.


Filing Procedures

I-VoIP providers may file the above-referenced reports in this proceeding on or before August 10, 2005. All reports must reference WC Docket No. 05-196 and should be labeled clearly on the first page as “Subscriber Notification Report.” The report may be filed using either the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), or by filing paper copies. Correct procedures for document filings including copies sent to the correct departments must be followed.


Summary

The FCC has shown by this latest notice that it is being flexible and realistic to allow sufficient time for I-VoIP providers to comply with the E911 requirements. At the same time, the FCC means business and is dedicated to assuring every consumer that subscribes to VoIP services, that they will be provided with emergency services, although not perfect in the initial stages.


Matthew Schulman is a principal of the Regnum Group. He can be reached at mschulman@regnumgroup.com.




As Reported in the The Prepaid Press
 



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