Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is a technology that allows a caller to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line. Some VoIP services may only allow a caller to call other people using the same service, but others may allow a caller to call anyone who has a telephone number - including local, long distance, mobile, and international numbers. Also, while some VoIP services only work over your computer or a special VoIP phone, other services allow you to use a traditional phone connected to a VoIP adapter.
Wednesday, October 22 2008
On Wednesday the FCC implemented provisions of the NET 911 Act that was passed earlier this year, including regulations on VoIP/911. The new rules allow VoIP carriers direct access to the nation's 911 systems, just like cellular carriers now have, and also sets out rates, terms and conditions for doing so.
VOIP phones present a challenge for many 911 systems because the service is tied to an IP address rather than a location. Mobile IP phone service adds another wrinkle to the problem because the service is not necessarily tied to a cellular system that could be used to locate the caller.
VoIP 911 Background
Since Americans were first able to dial "9-1-1" to reach emergency services in 1965, the public increasingly has come to depend on 911 in times of crisis. The communications industry, the states, and the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") have worked hard to ensure that 911 is almost universally available on traditional wireline and wireless phones so that the public has access to emergency services. Telecommunications capabilities have advanced considerably since 1965. Most wireline 911 service has been enhanced ("E911") with the ability to provide caller identification and location information to the call answering center ("E911") and the FCC has established a program to require wireless telephone carriers to provide E911 capability. Not long ago, however, the states and the FCC began to recognize that consumers may not always understand that E911 and basic 911 services may work differently - or not at all - over Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP") services. Because in many cases, VoIP services operate much like traditional telephone service, including the capability to make calls to and receive calls from users on the traditional telephone network, some customers assume that these services also offer comparable access to 911 services.
Under the FCC rules, interconnected VoIP providers must:
- Deliver all 911 calls to the local emergency call center;
- Deliver the customer’s call back number and location information where the emergency call center is capable of receiving it; and
- Inform their customers of the capabilities and limitations of their VoIP 911 service.
How VoIP / Internet Voice Works
VoIP services convert your voice into a digital signal that travels over the Internet. If you are calling a regular phone number, the signal is converted to a regular telephone signal before it reaches the destination. VoIP can allow you to make a call directly from a computer, a special VoIP phone, or a traditional phone connected to a special adapter. In addition, wireless "hot spots" in locations such as airports, parks, and cafes allow you to connect to the Internet and may enable you to use VoIP service wirelessly.
What Are Some disadvantages of VoIP?
If you're considering replacing your traditional telephone service with VoIP, there are some possible differences:
- Some VoIP services don't work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power.
- Not all VoIP services connect directly to emergency services through 9-1-1.
- VoIP providers may or may not offer directory assistance/white page listings.
FCC Consumer Facts (VoIP)