FCC Clarifies 911 Access VoIP Order

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The Federal Communications Commission won't require Internet phone service providers to cut off customers who don't have reliable 911 emergency call service.

The agency in a notice issued late Monday said providers that have not achieved full 911 compliance by Nov. 28 will not be forced to discontinue such service to any existing customers.

At the same time, the FCC said it expected providers to discontinue marketing Internet call service and accepting new customers in areas where the companies are not routing 911 calls to emergency response centers.

In May, the FCC ordered providers of Internet-based phone calls to certify that their customers will be able to reach an emergency dispatcher when they call 911. Dispatchers also must be able to identify the caller's phone number and location.

The companies were given until late November to comply, and many providers worried that they would be forced to disconnect customers who didn't have full 911 service.

The FCC issued the order after a series of highly publicized incidents in which Internet phone users were unable to connect with a live emergency dispatch operator when calling 911.