Voice-over-IP providers will not have to cut off existing customers if they do not provide them with enhanced 911 (E-911) services by the much-anticipated Nov. 28 deadline, but they may have difficulty growing their businesses in those areas, according to an FCC public notice released this week.

Many VoIP providers expressed concern that they would be forced to disconnect customers without E-911 service on Nov. 28 under an FCC order approved in May mandating the emergency service. But the FCC enforcement bureau on Monday release the public notice that VoIP providers could continue serving current customers after the deadline, even if they have not established E-911 service.

However, the bureau did not grant a full reprieve. VoIP providers still must file a compliance letter by Nov. 28 and are “expected” to cease all marketing activities to attract new customers if they do not provide E-911 service in that market. In addition, the public notice also “encourages” VoIP providers to implement a solution similar to AT&T’s Heartbeat, which blocks customers from making calls until they input a new address with their current location.

The public notice stops short of making policy statements on the controversial matter, because the bureau is not allowed to make policy decisions, an FCC spokesperson said.

Monday’s public notice was the first clarification offered by the FCC on VoIP E-911 since the commission released the order in June, said Nuvio CEO Jason Talley. Monday also was the eve of the FCC’s deadline to respond to a lawsuit filed by Nuvio and three other VoIP providers requesting a stay of the FCC order.

When asked if the FCC public notice would alter Nuvio’s litigation strategy, Tally said, “Absolutely not.”

In fact, Talley expressed concern that tying the ability of VoIP providers to market to E-911 could be an incentive for RBOCs to block access to the selective routers used by VoIP providers.

Talley said plaintiffs in case must file a response to the FCC by Thursday. A federal appeals court could decide the case next week, he said.