Ask the Security Alarm and Monitoring Expert

Q: Can you give an update on the VoIP legislative initiative? Is it too late to contact my senators on this issue?

A: We have been successful in securing the inclusion of the “Alarm VoIP Consumer Notification” provision in both the House and Senate telecommunications bills. Our provision would require VoIP providers to notify the consumer at the time of installation and/or number activation that:

1. The consumer needs to notify his alarm monitoring company that he has switched to VoIP phone service;

2. The consumer should test his alarm system; and

3. The consumer will need a backup battery power source.

While the Telecomm bill has passed the full House, to date, it only has been reported by the Senate Commerce Committee and still must be acted upon by the full Senate and then go to a House-Senate conference to resolve the differences. We have two concerns that we would like to be addressed.

First, we are concerned that both the House and Senate bills, as drafted, only require notification at the time of installation and/or number activation. The industry feels and has been supporting legislation which would require clear and conspicuous notification be included in the directions that accompany equipment sold directly to consumers. Since self-installation is and will increasingly be the way VoIP phone service will be marketed to the public, it is essential that the accompanying instructions include notification as to what the consumer needs to do to ensure that his alarm system continues to work properly.

Second, in order to better serve consumers, keep costs and thus prices down through enhanced competition, and to reduce the administrative burden of repeated testing and finger printing, we are seeking alarm monitoring license reciprocity legislation.

Under the industry proposal, licensure would still be left to the states. However, any license issued by any state that either adopted the proposed national model national standard, or which had in place licensing standards that were the equivalent of the proposed model standard, would have to be honored by any state requiring licensure.

You still have time during September to contact your senator(s) and urge them to support the Senate Communications, Consumers' Choice and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006. Ask them to tell Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) or Ranking Member Daniel Inouye (D-HI) that it makes sense to provide consumers with the information they need when they self-install VoIP equipment. This can be achieved by including a clear and conspicuous written notice similar to what the telecomm bills now propose at installation or number activation in the instructions that accompany the equipment to be installed directly by consumers. It is very important for you to ask you Senator(s) to support the VoIP Equipment instructions provision.

Because it is unclear if there is enough time left to bring the Telecomm bill up in the Senate, Chairman Stevens is looking for support for his bill so that he can tell Majority Leader Frist that he has the support needed to pass the Telecomm bill. We have good grassroots and must show Chairman Stevens that we will use it to help him with his bill. By helping him, we will enhance our position on our two priorities: a VoIP packing notice and license reciprocity.

Bill Signer is the Lobbyist for The Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC). AICC is composed of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), the Security Industry Association (SIA), and other prominent manufacturers and companies.

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