The U.S. government now requires voice over Internet protocol service providers to report all outages of broadband Internet service, including when service is completely lost and when service is technically available, but conditions prevent communication.
On April 27, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission posted a Federal Register notice—Extension of the Commission’s Rules Regarding Outage Reporting to Interconnected Voice Over Internet Protocol Service Providers and Broadband Internet Service Providers—that says requiring VoIP service providers to report such outages will help the FCC monitor compliance with the statutory 9-1-1 obligations of interconnected VoIP service providers.
Because consumers are increasingly using interconnected VoIP services rather than traditional telephone service, the outage data can help the FCC ensure the nation’s 9-1-1 systems are as reliable and resilient as possible, the notice says.
Interconnected VoIP services enable a wireline or wireless user to generally receive calls from, and make calls to, the legacy public telephone network, including calls to 9-1-1. However, as of the end of 2010, 31 percent of U.S. residential telephone subscriptions were provided by interconnected VoIP providers, an increase of 21 percent over 2009, the notice says.
The public’s increased reliance on interconnected VoIP services is also reflected in 9-1-1 usage trends for approximately 31 percent of residential wireline 9-1-1 calls are made using VoIP service, according to the notice. Therefore, the availability and resilience of the communications infrastructure, specifically 9-1-1, directly impacts public safety and the ability of first responders to fulfill their critical mission, the notice says.
However, over the past several years, a series of significant VoIP outages has increased FCC concerns about the availability of 9-1-1 over VoIP service, the notice says. But, unlike other outages of voice service, VoIP outages have not been reported to the FCC because the existing outage reporting requirements apply only to traditional voice and paging communications services over wireline, wireless, cable, and satellite, but those requirements have not included outages affecting interconnected VoIP services. Without detailed information about those outages, the FCC is unable to know whether, and how well, providers are meeting their statutory obligations to provide 9-1-1 and Enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) service.