PITTSBURGH--A panel at this week’s National Emergency Number Association conference discussed the myriad issues facing public-safety answering point managers as they work to deploy 911 services to callers using voice-over-IP handsets. Among the advice dispensed was that officials shouldn’t let “rules of engagement” get in the way of provisioning such services as soon as possible.

In May 2005, the FCC ruled that VoIP providers must make 911 services a standard element of their service offerings.

While acknowledging the need for business contracts and standards that define the relationship between call centers, VoIP providers and third-party vendors, Carey Spence, director of state government affairs for Intrado, said the more important consideration is to serve constituents.

“The state of Texas early on, before the order came out, formed a VoIP task force that created a very thorough process to ensure that VoIP deployments would occur appropriately,” Spence said. “When we got down to deploying, Texas realized that there were some parts of that process that were creating delays in deployment. … So they waived some of those steps and requirements so we could get the deployments done.”

According to Spence, Texas officials felt comfortable with waiving certain requirements because they trusted VoIP providers and third-party vendors to work with them after deployments were in place to work out the kinks.

“There were some areas where we had to reconfigure and retest, and we’re willing to do that. I have clients where we had to renegotiate parts of the contract language that was necessary so we could move forward post-deployment,” Spence said. “Please keep in mind that it’s OK to have those regulations in place, but let’s not hold up getting the service to the system. A small child may need to get help from 911, and—hopefully—that’s more important than fees being collected and remitted.”

After an attendee pointed out that without such fees there wouldn’t be 911 service of any kind, Spence stressed that she wasn’t advising call-center managers to abandon such requirements.

“Let me clarify: I didn’t say dispense with them, I said waive them to get to deployment, and then come back and deal with them afterwards.”