Friday, May 20, 2005

FCC's 911 Decision - Putting Their Foot Down - or Somewhere

Yesterday's FCC decision has attracted a lot of media attention. It strikes me as a knee jerk reaction to the 911 failures that recently happened in places like Texas and Connecticut with VoIP subscribers.

I'm not going to editorialize much here - I'll let the press coverage do the talking. In the past couple of days I've done 5 stories on this topic with the print media, and one this morning with CBS Radio. This amount of coverage in itself is noteworthy. It's great for my profile, of course, but I think it also speaks to the fear factor that's driving a lot of this.

Clearly, the FCC can't be seen as idle when fatal events occur and are being blamed on 911 letdowns. I don't know how many times 911 mishaps have resulted in fatalities with subscribers to incumbent carriers, but the nature of the FCC's decision seems heavy handed in the context of its potential impact on the emerging VoIP sector.

No doubt, the public good must remain paramount, but do the means justify the ends? We all know that the VoIP providers need a solution, and this has been coming for a while, but the realities of complying within 120 days are daunting. It's taken wireless over 15 years to get to this point with 911 - consumer VoIP is barely two years old - it just doesn't add up.

The implication here is that the Kevin Martin administration may end up being less friendly to VoIP, and more friendly to the RBOCs, who would not mind seeing a few roadblocks out there for VoIP. They have enough to worry about with the MSOs and wireless substitution, and this would be one less thing on their list - at least for now.

It's hard not to feel this way when you consider the FCC's rather tepid response so far to port blocking, which is hardly fostering a level playing field.

Enough of that. Here are some of the stories I was cited in on this topic...

Today's Wall Street Journal - FCC Wants 911 On Web Phones Within 4 Months (link may only be good for today - unless you're a subscriber - I can send you a soft copy - just let me know) - Cost of Net Phone Calls May Rise

Light Reading - FCC Will Force VoIP E911

Also discussed this story with...

- CBS Radio - this morning - may have run already at 10am - no archive

- Dow Jones Newswire

- Total Telecom Magazine

For further insight, especially on more constructive solutions to the problem, please see Jeff Pulver's blog. Yesterday Jeff also issued his own statement which I think captures how a lot of us feel about the decision and what it means for VoIP.

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