Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Stupid FCC VoIP E911 Mandate

The FCC's VoIP E911 mandate has become real -- and is being executed really stupidly. Last night, I get a call from the soothing computer-voice-Vonage-lady telling me that for Vonage to comply with the FCC order, I need to log into my account and acknowledge that I understand the E911 functionality of Vonage, even if I have already signed up for Vonage's 911 service by providing my address. If I don't do this, Vonage-computer-lady tells me I might experience a disruption in service. save me from myself in my decision to subscribe to VoIP service, the FCC will make my service get cut-off if I don't affirmatively acknowledge the E911 limitations once again. That'll certainly make more folks have 911 functionality.

Nonetheless, being one who respects all FCC mandates, I did log in, reread the information that Vonage had already made clear to me before (see post here for earlier thoughts on this). This valuable new information let me know that: the ALI limitations of VoIP (which is part of the reason I subscribed, I can take the box on the road and be anywhere with my virtual numbers); that, if the power goes down, my VoIP will not work (which was remarkably novel and obscure information to me since I had the unprecented cause-and-effect experience of unplugging my Vonage box and noticing that the light went off and I no longer had dialtone). This has to be one of the more insulting information mandates since the FTC's mattress tag regulation.

Instead of the preening and self-congratulation of adopting the mandate, the FCC might want to turn its attention to promoting development of an E911 infrastructure that is suitable for packet-based communications. The problems right now with E911 and VoIP are caused by the difficulty of engineering backward compatability with a 911 architecture dating from the 1960s (mandated, I might add, by regulation). Of course, the political rewards for that are far from immediate -- but I am sure the FCC's abiding concern for public safety -- it is so promiscuously proclaimed -- maybe Broadband, the FCC kitty, can lead the way!

posted by Ray Gifford @ 3:52 PM | VoIP