Packet8 CEO fires back on E911
Packet8 CEO Bryan Martin writes an evocative post on his journal, which is also part of Packet8's recent effort to combine e-community and blogging services to its customers.
Martin, like many in the VoIP industry, begins with what amounts to the VoIP industry's mantra on E-911, which is of course he supports the law enforcement community wholeheartedly, "especially in this era of homeland security concerns...", and that his company has been duly diligent in attempting to comply.
And this is no criticism of Mr. Martin, save that his post reflects the currwent political climate: No one on an executive team wants to be seen as soft on terrorism.
Martin then goes on to mention some credible concerns, that are also being echoed in other quarters.
What concerns me about the recent series of orders emitted from the FCC is the limited view they apply to VoIP as just a replacement for conventional telecommunications services. The FCC seems to be thinking only with their "legacy copper wire" view of the world. As an example, do the wiretap obligations extend to IP video communication services, as well?? And if the FCC were to ever clarify that video calls are not subject to CALEA obligations, because in that mode of operation the videophone is not "interconnected" with the PSTN, wouldn't all of the criminals out there just sign up for Packet8 videophone services?
My biggest issue with the timing of this order is that throughout the 18 months that I have been involved with the CALEA discussions at the FCC, the Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) (the three bodies that originated this wiretap petition) have not once produced a documented case where the interconnected VoIP industry, even in the absence of regulatory compulsion, has failed to successfully respond to a law enforcement request. In fact, there are only documented instances where the interconnected VoIP industry has successfully delivered information and media responsive to law enforcement requests. There are a lot of smart people working in the VoIP industry who are willing and able to solve all sorts of technological issues. But we need to have a definition of the problems facing the law enforcement community, whether they are real or theoretical, if we are going to be able to provide solutions for the benefit of everyone.
He goes on in a later post to say that ultimately, E911 compliance should be less about sending stickers warning customers that their VoIP phone is NOT like Plain Old Telephone Service, and delineates the real front in the battle to extend E911 to customers.
The future of E911 is all about how we get direct IP connectivity into the Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) – these are the dedicated people in emergency call centers who answer 911 calls. Not only will direct IP connectivity to these call centers reduce the infrastructure costs necessary to build and maintain these PSAP networks, but it will enable the transmission of other types of media, such as video, directly into the emergency call center. The VoIP and 911 communities’ ultimate goal needs to be focused on how we transmit more useful information to the first responders who are rolling to the scene of the 911 emergency. This information could include building blueprints, 2-way video from the scene of the emergency, pinpoint location information (not just a street address) and other types of data and media that would better prepare an emergency response crew for the situation they are about to encounter. The growing prevalence of wireless IP networks make these types of emergency response applications possible, and are even more useful to the crews in route since their in-route interaction with this information can be 2-way (vs. the limited 2-way radio chatter that is used today).
More good stuff in the same vein, on how the FCC is ultimately stifling innovation on his blog entry, made August 1.
And if any of our readership thinks IPInferno is singling out Mr. Martin for criticism, that's not this correspondent's intent at all. In fact, I'd like to compliment Mr. Martin for saying all this publically, when so many in the industry prefer to comment off the record.