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New Regulations As Telcos Move to VoIP?

by Bhagwad Park

posted in Communications

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It is no secret that VoIP will soon be replacing copper wires as the primary means of voice communication in many countries and in fact, the process is already well underway in the United States. Though the average consumer may not be aware of it, even legacy phone operators have started to upgrade their networks to take advantage of IP technology and are retiring copper line networks in phases.
The switch to VoIP is viewed as necessary and even inevitable by the telecom industry but regulatory changes have not kept pace with the change in technology. As phone operators make the move from offering basic phone service to a service portfolio that comprises Internet and related features, companies are finding that existing regulation is simply not sufficient. To rectify the situation, the FCC has recently proposed a set of rules for telcos that are switching over to VoIP.
According to this new set of rules, existing companies that offer landline service through copper lines will have to notify residential customers three months in advance before they phase it out (six months for nonresidential connections). The replacement VoIP service should also be comparable in terms of cost, contractual obligations and services as the old copper-based landline.
In addition, companies will have to seek FCC approval before replacing copper line networks with the new VoIP service. The new services will be evaluated on certain parameters before being approved as a replacement, ensuring that customers will not lose phone connectivity.
911 and emergency power
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the change over to VoIP is the fact that consumers might lose the ability to call 911 in case of emergency. To ensure that those in need - especially senior citizens, young children, people with disabilities etc. - can still dial 911 with VoIP technology, companies will have to set up a robust and resilient 911 service that can be accessed on the new service as well.
Another issue is that landline phones supply their own power through the wall socket which ensures that they continue working even if there is no power in the house for some reason. On the other hand VoIP requires a separate power source, whether it is provided through a battery or emergency backup generator. Hence companies will be required to arrange for equipment that can provide 8 hours standby if the power goes out (the customer will have to pay for it). Over time, these requirements may expand to 24 hours for standby.
About the Author: Bhagwad is an expert consultant on Business VoIP. He also specializes in Hosted PBX.
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