WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Senate has approved a measure based on a bill written by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon to speed the deployment of emergency 911 services to Internet phone users.
"This is a tremendous win for public safety," said Gordon, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications and Internet issues. "New technologies are meant to improve lives, not put them at risk.
"That's why this legislation is so important. It's absolutely vital for Internet phone providers to be able to send 911 calls to the appropriate authorities. In many cases, these calls are literally a matter of life and death."
Getting telephone service through the Internet is a technology known as Voice Over Internet Protocol. Some VOIP companies report they are having problems connecting to the existing 911 system.
The bill would give VOIP providers direct access to the 911 system, enabling them to provide full 911 service to their customers. Congress passed similar legislation in 2001 to give wireless phone companies access to the existing 911 system.
Gordon introduced the provision in the U.S. House of Representatives last year as the I.P.-Enabled Voice Communications and Public Safety Act. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida introduced the companion bill in the Senate.
The text from those bills was incorporated into an emergency communications amendment added to port security legislation that passed the Senate today (September 14). The House has already approved a version of the port security bill. Conferees from the House and Senate are expected to reconcile the differences in the two bills.
The Tennessee Emergency Communications Board has presented U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon with an award for introducing the legislation.