Monday 8th of September is an important day for Internet Telephony Service Providers. This is the day by which they have to support Access to the Emergency Services by VoIP phone ie 999 must work when dialled.
There has been much debate amongst the global VoIP provider community as to how much regulation should be applied to VoIP. In the USA it centres largely on commercial issues. In other words telephone calls are taxed but VoIP calls were not taxed, at least initially. The argument was that VoIP calls are actually just computer to computer data traffic and not telephony as traditionally defined.
The incumbent telephony providers have fought hard to have VoIP calls taxed in order to remove the competitive advantage notionally handed to VoIP companies. Clearly it is in the interest of the VoIP provider community not to be subject to taxation. The justification for this is that it would stifle innovation amongst new market entrants. There is a case for this.
In the UK the argument is different. Regulation is not so much about taxation as personal safety. In this case Ofcom, the UK regulator, has mandated that if you provide telephony services that allow connection to and from traditional PSTN phone numbers you must provide access to the Emergency Services.
The Ofcom pronouncement comes with constraints including making sure that customers are aware that VoIP calls probably aren’t going to work if there is a power cut of if the broadband connection carrying the calls is down.
I am fully supportive of the Ofcom position. What is going to be interesting is how the regulator responds to companies like Skype who at this time do not support 999 access and as far as I am aware have no plans to do so. Buyer beware.