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FCC May Ignore VoIP, But Congress Doesn't

If all goes as planned, Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron will testify before a Senate panel Thursday about communication companies' responses to Hurricane Katrina, showing that Congress isn't mimicing the deaf ear shown to advanced IP services lately by the FCC.
According to a draft presentation, Citron is expected to tell the Senate Commerce committee that the government should not favor single technologies when building a new emergency communications infrastructure, but should instead consider multiple, redundant options to better ensure that at least one system survives.

Citron is also expected to recommend more use of Internet technologies for future 911 systems, since current implementations proved mostly ineffective in the face of a storm of Katrina's size. While other communications companies are also scheduled to testify, Vonage's inclusion shows a measure of respect that the FCC failed to extend to IP providers in its similar hearing last week.

The FCC's decisions of late to slight IP communications have not been lost on the industry. The commission was also conspicuous by its absence at this week's Fall VON show in Boston, one of the largest gatherings of the VoIP and IP communications marketplace. At the show, Sen. John Sununu publicly questioned the wisdom of the FCC's decision this summer to force VoIP providers to quickly add E911 capabilities, a decision that might have prevented a critical Presidential phone call had some of its original enforcement deadlines not been delayed.

Since the FCC under new chairman Kevin Martin seems to prefer operating in a cone of silence -- broken only by occasional scripted appearances or hearings where no public input is allowed -- it's hard to guess why the nation's federal agency overseeing communications is ignoring the most innovative part of the industry. The good thing is, it seems the FCC's boss -- Congress -- isn't hesitant to learn more about VoIP and other new communication technologies. Maybe soon they'll start asking Martin why he thinks his agency can afford to keep its ears closed to the noise VoIP is making. We'd all like some answers.