FCC Rules Could Make VoIP Telephony Even Better

The comment and reply period is closing imminently on proposed new Federal Communications Commission rules that could significantly benefit users of VoIP phone service. Under the new rules, broadband providers would have to provide the FCC with details of service outages, just as phone companies now must do for traditional TDM-based phone systems.

The relatively unnoticed rule making action by the FCC is a tribute to the growth of VoIP phone service, such as that provided by Phone.com – specifically to the fact that a massive amount of the nation’s 911 emergency call traffic is now carried over VoIP. (Both Phone.com’s VoIP home phone service and its Virtual Office VoIP business phone service support 911 and, where available E911 http://phone.com/features/911-dialing ). “As of June 30, 2010, 28 percent of the more than 89 million residential telephone subscriptions were provided by interconnected VoIP providers,” the FCC notes in its proposal, available for perusal on the FCC Web site.

The FCC’s rationale is that, if it can gather enough information on broadband outages it can come up with strategies to help the nation’s broadband providers deliver more reliable service – which it says is exactly what happened historically when it started gathering similar data for legacy phone service, years ago. More reliable broadband, it reasons, means more reliable 911-based emergency services. That makes sense.

The bottom line, though, should be obvious – it also means more reliable everyday phone service, for both VoIP residential and VoIP business phone service.

As a couple of interesting asides: A group of wireless Internet service providers (called WISPs) are objecting to the rules, arguing that VoIP is just another application on broadband, and they shouldn’t be responsible for the reliability of their service just because it is carrying 911 calls. Also, for some reason most of the mainstream telephony and business press seems to have missed any mention of the FCC’s activity.

Stuart Zipper is the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break and a contributing editor to Communications Technology.