FCC proposes rules for VOIP 911 calls

Enhanced 911 systems would accommodate calls from IP-enabled phones under rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission.

E911 calls are routed to about 6,000 call centers nationwide, known as public safety answering points, using various technical protocols to identify the caller’s location and the appropriate answering point to handle the call.

FCC published a notice of proposed rulemaking Aug. 25 with the goal of ensuring that voice-over-IP service providers have access to the capabilities they need to provide 911 and E911 services. The commission invited public comments for the following 10 days.

“Anyone who dials 911 has a reasonable expectation that he or she will be connected to an emergency operator,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said. “This expectation exists whether that person is dialing 911 from a traditional wireline phone, a wireless phone or a VOIP phone.”

“Moreover, we need to ensure that our Enhanced 911 rules provide meaningful automatic location information that permits first responders to reliably find callers, even when they are using mobile wireless or VOIP phones,” he added.

FCC officials say the proposed rule is part of their effort comply with provisions of the New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008, which became law July 23.

Public safety groups welcomed FCC’s proposal. “We applaud the commission for its work to ensure that voice-over-IP 911 calls are properly routed to the correct” public safety answering point, said Chris Fischer, president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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