Senate Passes VoIP Enhanced 911 Bill

The Senate passed a bill to ensure that voice-over-Internet-protocol phone-service providers like cable companies can deliver 911 service to their customers. It must now be squared with a similar bill already passed in the House before it can be sent to the president for his signature.

The IP-Enabled Voice Communications and Public Safety Act would give cable companies and other VoIP providers the same interconnection access on the same terms as traditional carriers to ensure that 911 calls reach a local operator and that the operator can also determine the source of the emergency call -- so-called enhanced 911 service.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association supported the bill, saying in a letter to Senate leaders last week that "when consumers dial 911 for emergency service, they should do so with confidence that their calls for help will be answered without regard to who provides their phone service or what technology they employ."

A similar bill passed in the House last fall, and House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) said in a statement that he thought the two could be reconciled fairly easily.

“I am confident that we can resolve the minor differences between the House and Senate legislation in short order," he said, "and present a final measure to the president.”

The FCC back in 2005 paved the way for e911 service with mandates that VoIP providers deliver 911 service that linked to local operators after hearing from a parade of witnesses who talked of children dying and family members put at risk after calls to VoIP e911 services that did not do so.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.