E911 Proposals Trouble Small Ops

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Small cable operators are expressing concern about the scope of emergency calling rules the Federal Communications Commission may put into place for the personal protection of consumers using voice-over-Internet-protocol services.

In a filing Monday, the American Cable Association warned that some FCC proposals, however well-intentioned, were inappropriate for VoIP services provided by cable companies, especially capital-constrained small companies.

The ACA took aim at one proposal that would require deployment of home VoIP equipment (the media-terminal adapter, for example) that would be able to automatically transmit the caller’s location to emergency operators.

The trade group faulted this proposal as unnecessary for cable VoIP because the industry does not market VoIP as a nomadic service, which would raise location-identification concerns.

“The MTA cannot be used unless it is physically connected to the operator’s cable plant and, in many cases, the cable operator permanently affixes the MTA to the subscriber’s home or building. In contrast, providers of unfixed VoIP applications promote the easy portability of their services,” the ACA said.

The ACA has about 1,100 cable-company members, which collectively serve 8 million video subscribers. But more than one-half of its members serve fewer than 1,000 subscribers apiece.

Under chairman Kevin Martin, the FCC is moving aggressively to ensure that emergency-911 services function smoothly with VoIP technology. Martin pushed the agency in that direction after E911 failures led to tragic outcomes for customers of Vonage Holdings Corp., a leading VoIP provider.

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