Members of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) and related organizations are urging security dealers and systems integrators to contact their representatives in the U.S. House and Senate about pending legislation requiring consumer notification of potential alarm malfunctions when switching to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone equipment.
â€œMembers of Congress need to hear from them to understand that this is an important issue,â€ emphasized Bill Signer, director, Navigant Consulting, Washington D.C., the AICCâ€™s lobbyist.
Currently, requiring that consumers be informed before they switch to VoIP telephone service that it may affect the operation of their security alarm and personal emergency response system is being considered by a House subcommittee, but it soon also will be considered by the Senate.
â€œThey need to start talking to their senators, because it will come up in the Senate,â€ Signer urged. â€œItâ€™s a two-step process; itâ€™s a two-step dance, not a one-step dance.â€
The Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee considered the issue April 5 and several members reportedly pledged to make consumer notification part of the legislation.
â€œThe issue was two-fold,â€ Signer explained. â€œOne, clarification of the language to make sure that the committee staff was comfortable with it; two, there was a desire by the chairman to make sure that it was fully aired with parties that might be affected.â€
That would be the companies offering the VoIP service, Signer noted. The AICC has proposed language for a â€œwarning labelâ€ that has not yet been commented upon by the cable association.
â€œI think some variation of it will get into the bill, but itâ€™s a question of whether the members of the industry contact their members of Congress and tell them it is important to them,â€ Signer commented. He estimated that the issue might be resolved by Congressâ€™ Memorial Day recess May 26.
Part of the reason for coordinated language among all VoIP providers is that consumers can obtain VoIP from any of three sources â€“ the cable companies, telephone companies or non-facilities-based providers like Vonage who sell over the Internet, points out Lou Fiore, AICC chairman. â€œWeâ€™re not sure which of the three a customer is going to go to,â€ Fiore noted.
The National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), Irving, Texas, also is working on this issue with the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) and the Security Industry Association (SIA). VoIP providers say they are notifying customers, conceded Merlin Guilbeau, NBFAA executive director.
â€œThe problem is not all of them are doing it, and not all of them are doing it the same way, so we still think itâ€™s important the language be included in legislation that requires them to notify consumers in a conspicuous manner,â€ Guilbeau declared. â€œWeâ€™re hoping that will then prompt the consumer to at least contact the alarm provider.â€
Fiore sees an opportunity for the alarm industry in supplying power for the alarm systems. â€œIâ€™m trying to convince them to have the alarm industry provide the power to customers so we could monitor it at our central stations,â€ Fiore reported. â€œIâ€™m having some progress with that, but it hasnâ€™t been resolved.â€
Stressed Signer, â€œWe need more people pulling on the rope together. On April 5, AT&T had eight lobbyists in the room. The cable association had four or five lobbyists in the room plus many cable companies had lobbyists in the room.
â€œItâ€™s very difficult to combat and to be heard over that cacophony of noise,â€ he admitted. â€œWe need the membership on a grass roots level to make up for all the money that the cable companies and the Bells are throwing at this. They have put a lot of time, money and effort into this, and it needs to be counterweighted by our superb grass roots efforts.â€
The most important members to contact are Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, and Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the full committee.
Other key players identified by the CSAA are Charles Chip Pickering (R-Miss.); Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.); Rick Boucher (D-Va.); Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.); Bobby Rush (D-Ill.); and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.).
By calling Congress at (202) 225-3121 or (202) 224-3121 and providing their zip code, constituents can be connected with their member of the House or Senate. For more information, call or e-mail Bill Signer at (202) 973-3141 or firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can be found at NBFAAâ€™s Web site, www.alarm.org or CSAAâ€™s Web site, www.csaaul.org.