Qwest Backs VoIP E911 Deadline

by Colin C. Haley

The Baby Bell says the FCC should set a date for broadband telephony firms to provide E911.

Qwest said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should set a deadline for Voice over IP providers to offer enhanced 911 (E911) services.

"VoIP providers must treat E911 access as an integral part of the service they provide, and a necessary cost of doing business. "Anything less is irresponsible," Steve Davis, Qwest's senior vice president of public policy, said in a statement.

E911 systems provide emergency dispatchers with the location and callback number of someone who dials 911.

The comments from the executive of the Denver-based regional telecom carrier come as FCC Chairman Kevin Martin prepares to raise the issue of an E911 mandate for VoIP providers at the agency's May 19 meeting. Concern about VoIP providers' ability to provide E911 has grabbed headlines recently.

In February, a Vonage customer was unable to reach an emergency operator during a home invasion. The incident triggered a Congressional hearing and a lawsuit by the state of Texas alleging that Vonage did not fully disclose its 911 set-up process.

With the possibility of a government intervention, VoIP players have been addressing the problem. Earlier this week, Vonage said it will spend tens of millions of dollars to interconnect with Verizon' E911 system.

The pact means location and callback numbers of Vonage subscribers dialing 911 from Verizon's territory will be delivered to emergency dispatchers. The agreement calls for Verizon to open up some network equipment to Vonage.

Verizon is the first Baby Bell to sign a comprehensive E911 deal with a VoIP provider, although Vonage, which has more than 500,000 subscribers, said it is negotiating a similar arrangement with Qwest.

A Qwest spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the status of talks with Vonage.

This article was originally published on Wednesday Nov 9th 2011