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VoIP regulation could 'put lives at risk'

Ofcom may not allow 999 access

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VoIP users could soon feel the pain when it comes to contacting the emergency services via their internet connection, according to a speculative report by the Internet Telephony Services Providers’ Association (ITSPA).

ITSPA said that the telecoms regulator Ofcom is to change the regulations on VoIP providers which provide access to 999 - the emergency service. Providers in the UK do not have to provide access to emergency service numbers but those that do will face changes to regulations.

The lobby group reckons Ofcom wants to link access to emergency numbers with regulations covering the Publicly Available Telephone Service (PATS).

ITSPA provides “a self-regulatory model” for the UK VoIP industry and has a mandatory code of practice that its members have to adhere to.

The report raised concerns about “red tape” restricting economic growth within the VoIP business sector.

“Ofcom is fundamentally ignoring its statutory duties and regulatory principles by imposing unnecessary regulation that will both hinder competition and not further the interests of the customer,” said chair of ITSPA Eli Katz.

It also suggested that Ofcom could “put lives at risk” if regulation prevented some VoIP users from contacting 999.

But an Ofcom spokesperson said that the telecommunications regulator has “not made any proposals as to whether or not we should mandate all VoIP providers” regarding 999 access.

He added that “consumers should be aware of what they can or can’t do on a VoIP service”.

CEO of Ofcom, Ed Richards speaking today on the future of the telecommunications industry said: “Convergence is an unstoppable force which in a few short years will transform the conventions of commercial and regulatory practice.”

“They will pose questions and demand answers for every company, every regulatory agency and every government over the next decade,” he added.

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