Countdown to VoIP E911 Compliance

With compliance deadlines for the FCCs VoIP E911 Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looming, lets take a look at the specific obligations it requires with respect to customer notification, technical compliance and compliance reporting. While some of the preliminary deadlines have passed, primary compliance with technical and reporting requirements must be completed by Nov. 28.

Customer Notification.

The FCCs VoIP E911 Order requires all interconnected VoIP providers (those that receive calls from and initiate calls over the PSTN) to advise their subscribers of the circumstances under which E911 service may not be available or is limited. Interconnected VoIP providers must collect an acknowledgement from each subscriber stating that the subscriber received and understood this information. In addition, interconnected VoIP providers must distribute warning labels to subscribers for placement on or near their VoIP equipment.

Technical Requirements.

The VoIP E911 Order requires all interconnected VoIP providers to: 1) transmit all 911 calls to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), designated statewide default answering point, or appropriate local emergency authority; 2) transmit a call-back number (ANI) for each 911 caller to the PSAP; and 3) transmit the callers registered location to the PSAP.

The registered location of a subscriber must be obtained by the interconnected VoIP provider prior to initiation of service (as well as from current subscribers). Subscribers to nomadic VoIP services must have the ability to update their registered location at will and in a timely manner, with at least one method using only the subscribers handset. This option must be available free of charge. The location provided by the subscriber is the physical location where the service will first be used.

Providing the registered location is required in lieu of providing automatic location information (ALI), because ALI is not yet widely available for nomadic VoIP services. ALI automatically determines the callers geographic location and reports it to the PSAP. Since nomadic VoIP service is not associated with a particular location and can be used anywhere an Internet connection can be found, location information usually must be received and updated from the VoIP service subscriber.

An exception to these requirements exists for those areas where the applicable PSAP is not capable of receiving and utilizing call-back numbers and a registered location, or where a selective router (i.e., switching equipment that receives 911 calls and call-back numbers and queries the appropriate databases for appropriate PSAPs in order to route the call) is not utilized. However, the interconnected VoIP provider must determine which PSAPs cannot receive and utilize the information. For those PSAPs, the interconnected VoIP provider must still route the 911 call to the appropriate PSAP.

To provide this E911 capability, interconnected VoIP providers must interconnect with the Wireline E911 Network either through an agreement with a LEC that already is connected to the network or by directly connecting to a LEC.

Compliance Reporting and Liability Protection.

The VoIP E911 Order requires all interconnected VoIP providers to file a letter with the FCC explaining their compliance efforts by Nov. 28. This filing deadline coincides with the current deadline for E911 technical compliance.

The FCC refused (due to lack of authority) to provide protection for interconnected VoIP providers from potential liability arising under state law with respect to E911 failures or deficiencies. This protection is presently extended to both wireline and wireless carriers as well as PSAPs by federal and state law. Interconnected VoIP providers instead are expected to seek protection from negligence liability through customer contracts and/or agreements with PSAPs.


The FCC concurrently launched an associated rulemaking proceeding in which industry comment was submitted in September and October. The focus of this proceeding is to determine how the FCC can facilitate the provision of ALI by interconnected VoIP providers. The FCCs goal is that location information automatically will be forwarded to PSAPs without having to obtain the information from subscribers.

The FCCs rulemaking listed some possible methods for generating automatic location: 1) access jack inventory; 2) wireless access point inventory; 3) access point mapping and triangulation; 4) HDTV signal triangulation; and 5) various GPSbased solutions.

The rulemaking also tentatively concluded that the new E911 requirements should be applied to certain noninterconnected VoIP systems. Finally, it sought industry comment on performance standards, requiring redundant trunks to the selective routers, additional customer notification requirements and reporting obligations.

Tom Crowe is an attorney specializing in communications legal and regulatory matters. He was assisted in preparing this article by Joshua T. Guyan, an attorney for his firm. Crowe can be reached at +1 202 263 3640 or via e-mail at

Law Offices of Thomas K. Crowe

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