The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International urged Congress to amend legislation introduced by Sens. John Sununu (R-N.H.) and Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) that would largely keep voice-over-Internet Protocol services unregulated. While acknowledging VoIP’s promise, APCO is concerned that rapid deployment of VoIP services would have a “serious, negative effect” on the provisioning of 911 emergency communications nationwide.

APCO called on Congress to grant the Federal Communications Commission the authority to require VoIP service providers to provide enhanced 911 to all of their customers. Currently, the legislation only authorizes the FCC to facilitate voluntary standards governing the provisioning of 911 services, according to APCO. “Those who choose not to comply with the voluntary standards would only be required to provide disclaimers to customers before they acquire the VoIP service,” said APCO president Vincent Stile, in a letter to Sununu and Pickering.

In the letter, Stile told of a recent incident in Houston, Texas, where a 911 call made through a VoIP provider was sent not to the local public-safety answering point, but to Nashville, Tenn.

“Similar problems have occurred elsewhere, and will continue to occur unless and until VoIP services are required to provide full 911 access, including selective routing to the correct PSAP, call-back numbers and automatic location information for the caller. … When seconds count, it is imperative that VoIP providers are able to give the information public safety needs to save lives. Anything less is unacceptable,” Stile said.