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Vonage Holdings Corp. Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2013 Results

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FCC Orders Baby Bells To Provide 911 Service To VoIP Firms


Vonage In Print News

FCC Orders Voip Firms To Provide 911 Service

May 19, 2005

By Drew Clark

All Internet phone services that connect to traditional telephones will be required to provide 911 emergency service to customers within 120 days under an FCC order announced Thursday.

The unanimous action, the first significant agency decision since Kevin Martin became FCC chairman in March, sets the stage for an expensive and controversial scramble by voice-over-Internet protocol -- Voip -- companies to retrofit their technologies to meet the mandate.

"Today's action seeks to remedy a very serious problem -- one quite literally of life or death for the millions of customers that subscribe to Voip services as a substitute for traditional phone service," Martin said.

The issue of whether or how to regulate Internet-based communications -- including Internet telephone service -- has been hotly debated at the FCC for more than a year.

Until Thursday's action, Voip providers -- including industry leader Vonage -- generally enjoyed minimal or no regulation.

The order requires Internet services such as Vonage -- defined as "interconnected Voip providers" -- to deliver 911 calls directly to the customer's local emergency operator as a standard feature. Vonage's current 911 service is often routed through a non-emergency line.

Further, Voip providers like Vonage must provide "enhanced" or E911 data, including call back and location information, when public safety answering points are capable of receiving such data. They also must inform new and existing customers of the limitations of their 911 service.

All requirements must be met within 120 days of the rule's publication in the Federal Register, a technological accomplishment that several Voip industry officials termed "impossible" unless exemptions were granted. Internet-to-Internet Voip services such as Skype, pulver.com, and Microsoft's X-Box Live do not need to provide 911 service because they do not connect to the circuit-switched telephone network.

The order does not require the former "Baby Bells" and rural telephone companies to provide E911 access to Voip providers. However, all four Bells have agreed to do so. Under existing law, incumbents must grant such access to "any requesting telecommunications carrier," the FCC said.

Internet telephone services have until now contended that they are an "information service," and not telecommunications carriers subject to regulation.

Martin began the open meeting with a highly unusual presentation by three public safety officials and three Vonage-subscribing families who were unable to reach an emergency dispatcher when they dialed "911" on their Internet-connected telephones.

"Being an exempt telecommunications company, Vonage and other providers like Vonage are currently undermining the intent of the 911 Act," said Cheryl Waller, a Florida woman whose daughter died after she was unable to reach an emergency dispatcher.

Waller, her husband, and the other two families lauded the FCC action. But Waller added: "One hundred and twenty days is seven days longer than my daughter lived. She died at 113 days old because I could not reach 911."

Referring to Martin's and FCC Commissioner Michael Copps' emphasis of the importance of access to 911 lines by Bell companies, Vonage Senior Vice President Chris Murray said, "We are grateful that the agency included access to [Bell] infrastructure in the item, which we believe is a crucial detail to getting this done as quickly as possible."



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

** Certain call types excluded.

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