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Federal VoIP Battery Backup Requirements Start Soon
One complaint about the switch from analog phone service to VoIP is the challenge this poses to emergency services and reliability. Many customers fear VoIP will make their phone service less reliable because a power cut stops voice communications unlike traditional phone systems that supply their own power even if there is a general power outage.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) has listened, which is why it has recently mandated battery backup support for all VoIP customers. The deadline for offering this battery backup support for VoIP services is approaching, so service providers should prepare for the new obligations if they haven’t already.
The FCC’s Battery Back-up Order comes into effect on Feb. 16, 2016, for VoIP providers with more than 100,000 customers, and smaller VoIP operations must follow the new rules starting August 11, 2016. The new rules require that service providers offer customers the option to purchase battery backup power and to make detailed disclosures related to the power issues associated with the equipment, especially in emergency situations.
Providers must offer customers the option to purchase a battery backup solution for their VoIP systems rated to last at least eight hours or otherwise ensure that a standby solution that delivers eight hours of backup power is available for purchase.
Thankfully, the new rules don’t require that VoIP providers force the sale on consumers, but it must be offered. Existing customers don’t need to be offered battery backup, although they are required to provide annual disclosure information to all customers about battery backup options, and offer existing customers the ability to self-install commercially available battery backup solutions to the extent possible given existing equipment.
This is a transition to offering longer battery backup for all customers, though. By February 2019, all VoIP providers will be required to offer an option for 24 hours of standby backup power. This can be offered in the form of three eight hour batteries, however.
The new backup power options disclosure requirements for new customers and in the annual announcement must include the availability of at least one backup power option offered by the provider; service limitations with and without backup power during a power outage; purchase and replacement options that include cost; expected backup power duration; proper usage and storage conditions for the backup power source; how the customer may extend the provision of backup power during longer outages through devices such as solar and car chargers; customer backup power self-testing and monitoring instructions; as well as backup power warranty details.In the short term, these new requirements will be a headache for many VoIP providers. But in the long term, they will further spur adoption as customers begin to recognize that VoIP can be as reliable as the older phone technology it replaces. Offering battery backup solutions is a painful but necessary step for the industry. And at any rate, it soon will be the law.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson