Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Again on the FCC, VoIP and Emergency Services 

According to LightReading "sources close to the FCC" say the ruling regarding E911 will come at the FCC’s Open Meeting on May 19th (tomorrow), and will require VOIP players to implement 911 service on a nationwide basis within 120 days of the order’s publication. They add that publication of the order will come a few weeks after the meeting, which would put the compliance deadline at late October or early November.

Tom Evslin is trying to tell the FCC that it is making a mistake if the ruling is "according to the sources" and is analyzing the situation and the potential alternatives the FCC should take.

I fully agree with Tom, I just ant to make some additonal notes from a European perspective:

Tom is correctly statting that:

... it is hard to ignore the fact that consistent E911 service is still not available on cellphones and the FCC has not seen fit to take emergency action there. According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, one third of 911 calls are made from cellphones.

I want to add here that I talked to emergency organisations here in Austria about this percentage and got the answer: ... well over 50% (not to mention mountain rescue, where by nature the percentage is over 95% - and they are really in urgent need of better location information than cell info.

Another important statement is the following:

If the FCC DOES decide to regulate as reported by sources, it will impose an obsolete solution based on obsolete technology on IP providers who are working on much better solutions based on new technology.

It is even worse. Since VoIP is an application and you basically do not need a service provider at all, IETF ECRIT and other groups like GEOPRIV are working on a solution providing the cabability of making emergency calls without the need of a VoIP service provider. So the FCC will impose obligations on the wrong entities.

So I also strongly suggest to the FCC 1. to do nothing and 2. to study the situation. Mobile operators provided weak solutions for ten years, so why the hurry now with VoIP? Weak and strong lobbying?

Tom is also pointing to the more "enlightened" approach of Canada. Also the regulators in Europe are holding back here, I just want to point to the recent VoIP ruling in Norway:

Related to emergency services, the ruling says:
9. VoIP providers that offer services that are used nomadically, will have an option to be granted temporary exemptions from the emergency calls caller location requirement based on further conditions, inter alia an obligation to inform its customers about potential risks.
The Austrian Regulator has a similar approach not to impose too strict regulations at the moment and wait for further developments.

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