Aiming to make certain that all 911 calls get routed properly, the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday enacted rules that require interconnected Voice over IP service providers to report major network outages that meet specific criteria and thresholds.
The agency said the rules will ensure that U.S. communications infrastructure remains available during a crisis.
The FCC's current outage reporting rules have been on the books since 2004 but they had only covered voice services provided over wired and wireless networks, not the growing market of interconnected VoIP that is often associated with free or cheap calls.
A recent FCC report found that more than 87 million home phone subscriptions are offered as an interconnected VoIP service. Nearly 31 percent of U.S. landline consumers use VoIP as their home phone service, according to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
"We are helping ensure that consumers will have access to reliable phone service, particularly when calling 9-1-1, whether they are using a traditional telephone or one that operates by interconnected VoIP service," Genachowski said in a statement released Wednesday.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell explained that the reporting requirements only apply to "instances of a complete loss of interconnected VoIP service."
"It is important to emphasize that we are not imposing these rules on broadband service providers, whether wireline or wireless," McDowell said in a statement.