House Panel Approves VOIP E911 Bill

Legislation would give Internet phone providers access to the 911 system backbone.

Under legislation approved by a House panel, VOIP providers would have direct access to the nations E911 system in order to comply with Federal Communications Commission rules mandating Internet telephone companies provide customers with emergency calling services.

Currently, E911 calls from VOIP (voice over IP) customers are routed to third parties, such as telephone companies that then connect the calls to the E911 operator. In 2005, the FCC ordered VOIP providers to comply with E911 mandates, but did not require telecoms to open their infrastructure for the providers to directly connect the calls.

The 911 Modernization and Public Safety Act, approved Oct. 10, would give VOIP providers direct access to the E911 system backbone. In addition, the legislation would extend liability protections to VOIP service providers in much the same manner as traditional landline and wireless carriers.


To read more about E911s struggle, click here.

"The E911 legislation is designed to ensure that a consumer calling 911 in an emergency from an Internet phone … can do so with a degree of confidence matching that of traditional phone service and wireless service," Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, said in a statement.

The bill also requires the 911 Implementation and Coordination Office to develop a national plan to quickly move the nation from the current 911 system to an interoperable IP-based emergency response network that can handle voice, video and data traffic.

At a Sept. 19 hearing on the legislation, bill sponsor Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., said, "This is a common-sense public safety bill. We saw how our emergency communications systems collapsed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and after Hurricane Katrina. We need a more robust and reliable system that will be available to those who are facing a life-or-death emergency."

The bill now moves to the full Energy and Commerce Committee.


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