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FCC establishes Net telephony E911 task force

Task force will educate consumers and enforce compliance of 911 service rules for VoIP providers.

The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday the creation of a task force made up of federal and state officials that will help enforce 911 service requirements for Internet telephony providers.

Individuals from the FCC and state public utility commissions will serve as members of the task force, and they will work closely with representatives from the public safety community, the FCC said.

The task force is expected to develop educational materials to ensure that consumers understand their rights and the requirements of the FCC's VoIP E911 Order, which was issued back in May. It will also come up with rules to help providers expedite compliance, and it will compile data and share best practice information.

"One of the FCC's core missions is to promote public safety," Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC, said in a statement. "Our VoIP E911 rules are critical to achieving that goal. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the states to advance our common goal that all Americans, no matter their provider, have access to life-saving emergency 911 services."

Traditional landline phone providers and cellular operators are already required to offer E911, or enhanced 911. The service, which allows operators to locate phones dialing 911, has been credited with saving many lives. Some VoIP providers have already been offering some form of emergency service, but the calls have been indirect at best. The calls take a circuitous route often ending up at the administration offices of 911 call centers, and not emergency dispatchers.

Now the FCC has put pressure on VoIP operators to offer the same kind of service that landline phone providers and cellular operators already offer. On May 19, the FCC issued its VoIP E911 rules, giving VoIP operators 120 days to comply with E911 rules.

The rules require providers to deliver all 911 calls to customers' local emergency operators; give emergency operators the call-back number and location information of their customers, and inform their customers of their E911 capabilities and limitations of their service.