As we approach the end of 2020, certain manufacturers, vendors and service providers should be gearing up to comply with the requirements of RAY BAUM’s Act, starting on January 6, 2021. Under the FCC’s rules, new installations of fixed multiline telephone services (“MLTS”), telephone services and VoIP must be capable of transmitting “dispatchable location” information to the public safety answering point (“PSAP”) with a call to 911.
“Dispatchable location” information is the street address of the calling party, and additional information such as room number, floor number, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party. The goal is to provide sufficient information to enable first responders to quickly locate the caller. Under the RAY BAUM’s Act rules, street addresses must be validated. The FCC has noted that various databases exist against which street addresses can be validated. The dispatchable location information, including the validated street address, must be provided automatically to the PSAP when a 911 call is made, without further action by the caller.
The rules that become effective in January prohibit the manufacture, import, sale, or leasing of MLTS in the United States unless the system is pre-configured such that, when properly installed, the dispatchable location of the caller will be conveyed to the PSAP with 911 calls. The rules further prohibit the installation, management, or operation of MLTS in the United States unless the system is configured such that the dispatchable location of the caller will be conveyed to the PSAP. Enterprises that use MLTS in their businesses should be aware that they may have responsibilities for compliance. At a minimum, the service provider managing the MLTS may rely on enterprise customers to provide, maintain and update location information for the customer’s devices. If the business takes on a more active role with regard to its MLTS, such as programming calling patterns, the customer may be considered a “manager” or “operator” under the FCC’s rules and have direct responsibilities for its system’s compliance.
The January effective date is applicable only to fixed MLTS, such as desktop phones or other devices that cannot be moved and used at a new location by an end user without some technical assistance. Non-fixed or nomadic MLTS devices, such as softphones and other equipment that the user can move freely, have another year, until January 6, 2022, to comply, and are subject to somewhat more flexible rules. The January 6, 2021 compliance date also applies to traditional fixed telephone service and fixed VoIP services. As is the case for MLTS, non-fixed or nomadic VoIP devices are not subject to dispatchable location requirements until 2022.
Interested parties should note that the new rules do not require them to replace or retrofit existing systems. However, it is possible that modifications or upgrades to existing systems after January 6, 2021 could be considered as new installations that would be required to provide dispatchable location information. The FCC has provided very little clarity as to what modifications or upgrades might trigger RAY BAUM’s Act compliance obligations, so parties planning changes to their MLTS or VoIP services after January 6th will want to proceed with caution.
Linked for your convenience is a detailed advisory on the FCC’s new MLTS 911 rules: