FCC VoIP Deadline Looms

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Cable companies are expected to disconnect by Aug. 30 any voice-over-Internet-protocol customer who fails to acknowledge that E911 service might fail in the event of network crash, according to a notice released by the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday.

In an effort led by new FCC chairman Kevin Martin, the agency is putting pressure on VoIP providers to comply with tight deadlines to ensure that subscribers have robust E911 access and are made clearly aware of any shortcomings.

Martin decided to make E911 for VoIP a priority in May after tragedy struck customers of Vonage Holdings Corp. who could not dial 911 to reach police and emergency squads. The death of a three-year-old Florida girl and the shooting of two Houston residents were among the events that triggered the FCC's response.

The FCC gave all VoIP providers that connect calls to the traditional phone network until late November to provide their customers with E911 capabilities. Because Time Warner Cable, for example, already offers E911, the MSO is not affected by that deadline. It is unclear whether the MSO even had to notify VoIP subscribers of potential E911 shortcomings.

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