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FCC Names VoIP 911 Panel

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has named a task force to oversee the agency's Voice over IP E911 mandate.

Scheduled to begin meeting this month, the 10-member panel of FCC staff and National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) members are charged with developing educational materials, ensuring compliance, data collection and best practices.

The FCC unanimously voted in May to require Internet telephone companies to provide emergency 911 services to all their customers by the end of the year.

Because of the nomadic nature of VoIP, the first generation of commercially viable Internet-based voice services frequently route 911 calls to public safety administrative offices instead of directly sending the calls to Public Service Answering Points (PSAPs).

After hearing wrenching tales of VoIP customers unable to reach a PSAP during an emergency, the FCC dictated that Internet telephone companies not only provide more traditional E911 services, but also notify and receive acknowledgments from all customers of possible service limitations.

The FCC also ordered incumbent carriers to provide access to their 911 networks to Internet telephone companies, including access to trunk lines, selective routers and 911 databases.

The initial deadline for receiving customer acknowledgments was originally set for the end of July, a deadline that has twice been extended. The current deadline is the end of September.

One of the primary duties of the new task force will be to develop educational materials to ensure consumers understand their rights and the requirements of the VoIP E911 rules.

VoIP providers are already distributing warning labels to all subscribers for use on or near VoIP equipment interconnected to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

FCC members of the panel include Joseph Casey, chief of the Spectrum Enforcement Division; Colleen Heitkamp, chief of the Telecommunications Consumers Division; Sue McNeil, acting deputy bureau chief of the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau; Louis Sigalos, chief of the Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division; and Julie Veach, acting chief of the Competition Policy Division.

NARUC representatives include Gary Klug, chief engineer of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission; Robert Mayer, director of the Office of Telecommunications, New York State Department of Public Service; Jeff Richter, principal telecommunications analyst, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin; Eddie Roberson, chief of the Consumer Services and External Affairs Division, Tennessee Regulatory Authority; and Steve Wilt, public utility regulatory analyst for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.