Net phone callers could lose service
FCC rule may force firms to cut lines
Associated Press
Thursday, Aug. 25, 2005 

NEW YORK - Providers of Internet-based phone services may be forced next week to cut tens of thousands of customers who haven't acknowledged that they understand problems they may encounter dialing 911 in an emergency.

The Federal Communications Commission had set the Monday deadline as an interim safeguard while providers of Internet calling, also known as VoIP for Voice over Internet Protocol, rush to comply with an FCC order requiring full emergency 911 capabilities by late November.

Vonage Holdings Corp., the biggest VoIP carrier with more than 800,000 subscribers, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that 96 percent of its customer base have responded to the company's notices about 911 risks.  But that still means as many as 31,000 accounts would need to be shut off as early as Tuesday. advertisement Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.

Qwest Communications, which provides Internet calling services nationwide, has warned customers in Arizona and other states about the federal requirement.  The telephone company said 75 percent of its customers have responded to notices.

A spokesman for Tempe-based Inter Tel Inc. said the company doesn't expect its customers will experience a significant number of disconnections.  The federal government's deadline is geared toward consumers and emergency-related businesses such as hospitals, but Inter-Tel mainly supplies Internet phone equipment for small to mid-sized businesses.

Other carriers declined to quantify the response rate beyond the updates they were required to file with the FCC two weeks ago.

The FCC issued its order in May after a series of incidents in which VoIP users were unable to connect with a live emergency dispatch operator.

Reporter Ken Alltucker contributed to this article.