Vonage Markets on Despite FCC E911 Order

by Roy Mark

The VoIP provider will continue offering service to new customers while it seeks a waiver of Nov. 28 deadline.

Vonage plans to continue offering service to new customers despite failing to meet the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) mandate to provide full E911 by Nov. 28 or cease marketing Voice over IP .

In a compliance report submitted to the FCC Monday, Vonage said it is capable of providing a callback number and a fixed location to 911 operators for 100 percent of its customers.

VoIP, however, allows users to be nomadic, placing calls wherever there is a broadband connection. New Jersey-based Vonage, a non-cable VoIP provider with approximately 1 million subscribers, reported only 26 percent of its customer base could receive nomadic E911 service.

According to the FCC, VoIP providers are allowed to keep customers who do not have full E911 service but are barred from offering new service in markets where E911 can't be provisioned.

Vonage spokesman Brooke Schulz said Tuesday the company would "absolutely not" stop offering VoIP to new customers, noting the company has requested a waiver from the FCC rules. "We will continue to market our service."

The company told the FCC in its waiver filing that it believes 61 percent of Vonage's subscriber lines will be E911-capable by the end of the year. Vonage added that sometime in the first half of next year, more than 97 percent of its subscribers will have full E911.

The FCC had no comment on Vonage's waiver request or its decision to continue offering VoIP to new customers.

According to its FCC filing, Vonage has invested more than $50 million in its E911 deployment with 125 full-time employees dedicated to the project.

"The scale and scope of this effort are enormous and have never been attempted in such a compressed timeframe prior to the FCC's order," Vonage states in its waiver filing. "During this project, Vonage found that there were few resources available to guide it in its nationwide deployment of E911 service."

In particular, Vonage said there is no comprehensive list of all of the selective routers in the United States or a list of which Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) are connected to which selective routers. In fact, Vonage claims, sometimes PSAP personnel cannot identify the selective router to which their PSAP is connected.

"Vonage ... has had to carefully and painstakingly compile the information necessary to map its customers to PSAP boundaries, map the PSAPs to selective routers and build from scratch the processes and procedures necessary [to provide E911]," Vonage said in its filing.

In May, the FCC gave VoIP providers until Nov. 28 to offer full E911. Originally, the FCC planned to order VoIP providers to disconnect after Nov. 28 all customers who could not receive full E911.

Earlier this month, the FCC backed off that order.

Congress also asked the FCC to modify its E911 VoIP orders. When the FCC did not, the Senate Commerce Committee approved the IP-Enabled Voice Communications and Public Safety Act of 2005.

The legislation contains a waiver process by which IP-enabled voice service providers may continue to add subscribers even if they are not in full compliance with the FCC.

The bill has not had a full Senate vote.

This article was originally published on Wednesday Nov 30th 2005