The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has concluded that VoIP telephone services might be disrupted in case of another terrorist attack against the U.S. That might sound like a no-brainer, but actually it represents a significant heightening of awareness of just how much VoIP usage has grown, particularly VoIP usage by businesses and government agencies.
What the FCC is doing – in an action that’s gone almost unnoticed by the nation’s press and blogging community – is adding VoIP to the telephony services covered by the nation’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). What DIRS does is updates the Emergency Contact Information system that the FCC set up in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. “DIRS is a voluntary, web-based system that communications companies, including wireless, wireline, broadcast, and cable providers, can use to report communications infrastructure status and situational awareness information during times of crisis,” the FCC explains on its DIRS website http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/services/cip/dirs/dirs.html). Notably, there is no mention of VoIP, a situation that’s apparently about to change. The benefit to voluntary participation in the DIRS system is that the FCC says it will attempt to provide resources and coordinate efforts to get services restored in the event of any attack. Realistically, that also means help in case of natural disasters.
“In recent years, communications have evolved from a circuit-switched network infrastructure to broadband networks,” the FCC says, in a notice published in the Federal Register on April 23 (to read the notice go to http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-04-23/html/2012-9700.htm). “Increasing numbers of consumers, businesses, and government agencies rely on broadband and interconnected VoIP services for everyday and emergency communications needs,” the FCC continues.
At this point there’s no indication that anyone is going to object to the FCC’s planned rules change adding VoIP phone service to DIRS. The FCC has set a May 23 deadline for anyone who wants to comment.
Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break.