Senate passes 911 items in port-security legislation
The U.S. Senate voted to include measures as part of the Safe Port Act (HR 4954) that would serve to clarify jurisdictional and liability issues surrounding voice-over-IP (VoIP) providers’ role in the 911 system.
Among other things, the 911 amendments would let states impose and collect 911 fees — a matter that is in question, given the FCC’s stance that IP services fall under federal jurisdiction — and ensures that VoIP providers have access to the components necessary to offer E911 services. In addition, the legislation would provide PSAPs, VoIP providers and VoIP customers with the same liability protections given to those associated with traditional wireline telephony and cellular services.
Each of the 911 items had been part of the IP-Enabled Voice Communications and Public Safety Act (S. 1063) approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in December 2005, but it was questionable whether that legislation would reach the Senate floor, according to Beltway sources. As a result, many non-controversial 911 amendments were added to the Safe Port Act. The legislation now will be considered in a conference committee.
Not included in the Senate amendments was language that would have required the FCC to grant waivers to IP-based providers in situations where it was not “technically or operationally feasible” to meet mandates. While NENA supported this legislation, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) staunchly opposed such language, claiming that it would provide a loophole for VoIP providers wanting to avoid 911 offerings, despite the FCC last year mandating that they provide then.