A delegation of nearly 40 security industry members from the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) and related organizations took to Capitol Hill in early February to inform congressional representatives and senators about communications issues affecting the industry.

Discussions centered primarily around three issues: establishing a model law for qualifying central station employees in all states; notifying customers to check their alarm systems if they install voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephone systems; and extending the deadline at which cellular phone carriers will stop being required to provide analog mobile phone service (AMPS) in favor of digital methods of transmission. These carriers have been converting their networks to digital for years and will be allowed after that “sunset date” to use the frequencies previously occupied for AMPS transmissions for digital cell phones.

Approximately 40 representatives, senators and their staff members met with the industry representatives. Two meetings with the entire group were held in a hotel reception room and another in a club on Capitol Hill. Then the industry members met with their individual representatives and senators.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the commerce, trade and consumer protection subcommittee, and Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.), committed to take the lead on the reciprocity bill, reported Bill Signer, director of Navigant Consulting, Washington, D.C., the AICC’s lobbyist. John Chwat, director of government relations for the NBFAA, also worked on the event and provided his expertise.

Other representatives working with the security industry on these issues include Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Fred Upton, (R-Mich.), John Dingell, (D-Mich.), and Ed Markey, (D-Mass.).

The bill establishing a model law for central station employees would go through the Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the House Commerce Committee. “We talked to a number of senators who have an interest in it,” Signer revealed.

The AICC is proposing that a national model law be developed because of varying regulations in approximately 15 states. “If any state adopted that law, then the other states would have to give full faith and credit to that licenser,” Signer explained. “If Virginia adopted the model licensing rules, then if you wanted to do monitoring services in New Jersey, then New Jersey would have to honor that license that you received in Virginia. It wouldn’t make any difference whether New Jersey also accepted the law.”

This would mean that monitoring companies would no longer have to go through duplicate background checks and other investigations of each of its employees for each state in which the company is monitoring. Currently, these investigations include fingerprinting of each employee, criminal background checks, proofs that they are not in substance abuse programs, their age, that they have taken an approved monitoring course and more.

George Gunning, vice president and president-elect of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), thinks such investigations are counter-productive. “I believe that’s a big burden on the FBI,” he declared, adding that some companies monitor in 20 or 30 states. “If you have to check the same people over and over again, I think that’s a waste of resources on their part.”

Lou Fiore, AICC chairman, compared the proposed law to having a driver’s license from one state. “Your license is accepted in any other state,” he pointed out. “We feel it should be the same with monitoring across state lines.”

The second issue the AICC met with representatives, senators and their staff members on was warning customers that the operability of alarm systems may be affected by VoIP phones.

Signer compared this to a warning label to customers on VoIP systems. “In probably the vast majority of cases, the consumer is doing the installation, and they’re not necessarily going to know how to do it – it requires some training,” Signer maintained. “We’re also telling them [broadband providers] if you’re hooking it up, at least notify the consumer that he may have a problem and let the consumer deal with testing the system and calling his alarm company to make sure he has service. In most cases, it can be dealt with relatively easily.”

Fiore believes up to 450 companies are offering VoIP services in the United States. “Getting into this business is not that difficult,” he maintained. “It’s the dot-com of 2006.”

Concerning the third issue, extending the deadline to end mandatory broadcasting of AMPS cellular telephone service for alarm transmission, representatives and senators pointed out that they had no jurisdiction – the deadline was determined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). But they agreed to send letters urging the FCC to extend the deadline two years beyond its scheduled implementation on Feb. 18, 2008.

“We’ll take whatever we can get, but we’re asking for two years,” he said about the extension.

Added Signer about the alarm dealers, “One good thing about this group is that they are all salespeople, so they know how to get across the issues. In this case, they are selling a concept as opposed to selling a product.”

Interested security industry members should write their representatives and senators about these issues. For more information, visit www.csaaul.org/AICCCommittee.htm.