FCC lays out VoIP outage reporting rules to ensure 911 reliability

The FCC has extended its network outage reporting to interconnected VoIP in an effort to ensure greater 911 system reliability.

Under the new rules, the FCC said it will use outage reports to track and analyze information on interconnected VoIP outages affecting 9-1-1 service and see if other steps are needed to prevent other outages from occurring.

One area that the FCC rules do not address is broadband Internet service outages, something that Chairman Julius Genachowski said the commission would address with telecom industry service providers to develop a voluntary method to track those outages.

Telcos like CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) spoke out in support of the new rules, saying they will help its growing base of VoIP consumers.

"CenturyLink applauds the FCC's continuing commitment to public safety and supports the adoption of outage reporting requirements for VoIP 911 calls," said Melissa Newman, CenturyLink's vice president of regulatory affairs in a statement. "These reporting requirements will help protect those who rely on VoIP services."

However, the cable industry's key forum, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, has been a critic of the rules, arguing that they will place a new burden on broadband providers.

It did agree with FCC commissioner Robert McDowell that the agency does not have regulatory authority over the Internet, Broadcasting & Cable reported.

"With more than 25 million consumers relying on cable's voice service, the cable industry has long recognized the importance of providing quality, reliable and affordable service," said Rick Chessen, senior VP, law & regulatory policy, NCTA in a statement published by B&C.  "We appreciate the commission's decision to collect outage information in a manner that will not unduly burden new technologies.  The cable industry will continue working hard to meet our customers' expectations as we provide best-in-class voice service."

Timing for these new reporting rules coincides with the consumers' ongoing migration from traditional landline voice service from ILECs to alternative low-cost providers such as Vonage (NYSE: VG). According to the FCC, about one-third of the United States' 87 million residential subscriptions are to an interconnected VoIP service.

For more:
- see the release
- Broadcasting & Cable has this article

Year in Review 2011: FCC's USF and ICC reform

Related articles:
FCC serves up reworked Lifeline program to weed out fraud, promote broadband adoption
Verizon, Sprint, USTelecom join challengers to USF reform plan
Rural telco groups want the FCC to rethink its USF reform program