Is Emergency Calling VoIP and Hosted PBX’s Achilles’ Heel?

Everyone’s minds have been locked firmly on the potential for disaster and the necessity of contingency plans in the face of some sort of operationally-debilitating experience. In the wake of recent environmental catastrophes the usefulness of remotely hosted communications systems has become blindingly apparent. VoIP and hosted PBX both make it much, much easier for an organization to regain its operational footing almost immediately after a disaster, even if that disaster lays waste to their offices and/or damage their in-house communications equipment. By remotely locating the guts of an organization’s communication systems VoIP and hosted PBX essentially make an organization’s communication systems as disaster-proof as possible.

However, some experts have raised a really good question when it comes to remote hosting of communications technology, and that’s the fact remote hosting can cause some real problems for emergency services.

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Is Regulatory Creep Inevitable for VoIP?

The threat of regulation, to one degree or another, often seems inevitable for the VoIP market. This wasn’t always the case. In the very early days of VoIP it seemed like the communications technology would remain independent of governmental interference, largely due to its net-based nature. Yet as VoIP use grew over the years, and as it became increasingly clear how big a player VoIP was going to be in the larger telecom market, the notion of regulation began to seem more and more inevitable and, to some people, more and more necessary to ensure the normal, everyday telecommunications technologies of the future continue provide reliable service and access to emergency services, to name just a few avenues of concern for VoIP users and potential regulators.

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Information or Telecommunications? How Regulation Affects Hosted PBX and Law Enforcement

Communications is a tightly controlled industry in the U.S. With new hosted PBX technologies, some issues have cropped up that caused the FCC to run into a snag when it comes to properly regulating them. Some of these might seem like simple semantics, but even something as minor as figuring out what to call a hosted PBX service can snowball into something more serious.

Look at it this way- there are separate regulations for information services and telecommunications services. Information services, like the internet, are not as tightly regulated as telecommunications services, like telephone services. So… how should regulators qualify Voice-over-IP systems? They’re essentially a telecommunications service, but one that relies on the internet. Do calls made over the internet qualify as phone calls, or as internet data content? Calling them an “internet content” would make internet-based phone services subject to far fewer regulations than traditional phone services. Needless to say, VoIP service providers are pushing for an information services classification, while traditional phone companies are lobbying for a telecommunications services classification.

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