FCC requires VoIP providers to report service outages

Emergency calls to 911 expected to become more reliable with the FCC's decision to treat VoIP service providers the same as landline and cell phone providers.

The Federal Communications Commission has decided to require all interconnected VoIP service providers to report network outages in much the way landline and cell phone service providers must follow.

The goal of today's ruling is to build a more reliable 911 emergency call-in system and to make all of the U.S. communication infrastructure readily available in times of crisis.

"We are helping ensure that consumers will have access to reliable phone service, particularly when calling 911, whether they are using a traditional telephone or one that operates by interconnected VoIP service," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. "Public safety is a core mission for the agency."

Voice over Internet Protocol use is steadily rising--around 31 percent of residential telephone subscriptions are now listed as using VoIP service, according to the FCC. And now, the commission is having to play catch up.

Currently, the FCC's outage reporting rules cover wired and wireless platforms, but not VoIP. Because of this, the FCC doesn't get information about outages that could potentially affect millions of customers across several states, which is what happened during Hurricane Irene last summer.

Today's decision means that now the FCC will have reports to track and analyze information on VoIP outages and have a better idea on what is happening with 911 service. The FCC can then use this information to decide if something needs to be done to prevent future outages.

"The FCC has a statutory obligation to ensure the public can make emergency calls, particularly when facing life-threatening situations," said Genachowski.

Although the FCC made this decision, it is still waiting to take action on similar matters, such as reporting outages of broadband Internet service.

In other FCC news, the commission also decided today to tighten rules against telemarketing calls and spam texts. Now telemarketers have to get written permission before contacting consumers; telemarketers are also required to provide an opt-out method to all consumers receiving their texts and calls.

 

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