Small Ops Say Some Options For E911 Would Hurt Them

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

In a filing last 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.

In July, the FCC ordered cable companies to disconnect on Aug. 30 any VoIP customer that has not acknowledged an understanding of the circumstances under which E911 service would malfunction. All VoIP providers, except those that are solely computer-to-computer, have to provide their customers with E911 capabilities by late November.

Nuvio Corp., a small VoIP company based in Overland Park, Kan., has filed an appeal in federal court to block the late November effective date.

“The time frame being 120 days, this is the first and largest issue. We know it’s not technically feasible,” Nuvio CEO Jason Talley said.

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