Vonage may be banned from adding new customers

Due to non-compliance with an FCC directive, US’s biggest provider of Internet telephony, Vonage Holding Corp., faces possible sanction of not being able to add any further users. This is due to the fact that they had failed to meet an FCC ruling which required Internet telephony providers to provide improved emergency 911 services in all of their areas to all users within 120 days.

The deadline to demonstrate the compliance with the order was Monday. In spite of urgings from both the houses to provide more time and tools to companies, FCC chairman Kevin Martin refused to grant any extension.

Vonage, with more than 1 million users in its compliance report to the FCC, stated that only 26% of its customer base had access to full E911 services. Vonage further said in the report that it was capable of transmitting a number and location for 100% of its users, but couldn’t do so because of lack of cooperation from competitors that control the 911 network.

Other companies that filed their reports include SunRocket and AT&T with 50,000 and 57,000 users respectively. SunRocket in its report said that 96% of its users have full access to 911 services whereas AT&T refused to disclose any information.

The ruling passed in May by FCC citing public safety, required companies selling VoIP to ensure that by dialing 911, callers are able to reach an emergency dispatcher. It also required that the dispatchers must be able to tell the location and the numbers from which the call originated. The penalty for not meeting the deadline as specified by FCC to the companies was that they would not be able to market their service or accept new customers in areas that didn’t have enhanced 911, but they don’t have to disconnect current customers in these areas, as some providers had feared.

On the issue of possible actions against erring companies FCC spokesman David Fiske declined to discuss the issue saying “At this stage, the agency is focused on the compliance filings by VoIP providers.”

This FCC directive is applicable to companies that sell VoIP services using the public phone network to place and terminate calls.


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