Part of the message has been heard by Congress about consumer notification of potential alarm malfunctions when switching to Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) telephone equipment, but not all of it.

Bills pending in Congress currently require notification before installation or number activation of potential alarm malfunctions, but not in the packaging for VoIP equipment that is installed by consumers.

“What we believe is that the vast majority of VoIP systems that are going to be installed will be self-installed, and the way the bill now reads, the only way the consumer knows about potential alarm malfunctions will be at the point of number activation,” explains Bill Signer, director, Navigant Consulting, Washington D.C., the lobbyist for the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC). “So they will have installed it already and they will find out, whereas they should know at the point of opening the package and the instructions should make it clear.

Signer recommends that dealers and integrators urge Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, that they want consumer notification of VoIP in the packaging for equipment that companies sell to install VoIP phone service.

Signer also emphasizes that dealers and integrators should urge support for the telecommunications reform bill.

The “Communication, Consumers’ Choice and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006” is being considered by the Senate, and the “Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006,” H.R. 5252, was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 321 to 101 on June 8.

The bill passed by the House includes consumer notification by VoIP providers before installation or number activation to provide “clear and conspicuous” notice to consumers who have alarm systems to contact their alarm provider to test the system after VoIP phone installation, to notify their monitoring company that they have installed VoIP phone service, and that a battery backup should be installed for the alarm system.

The Senate’s language says that the battery backup is required for the alarm system to work. However, neither the House nor Senate version requires consumer notification in the packaging of VoIP systems that consumers install themselves.

Reciprocity of state licensing for central station employees is another issue that was not addressed by either the Senate or House. Signer urges dealers and integrators to contact their senators and representatives about that issue, which would be covered in a separate bill or added onto the telecommunications bill.

As regulations now are written, central station employees must go through the licensing procedure in each state in which they monitor accounts that requires licensing.

“Reciprocity is also important,” Signer asserts. “We’re talking to Senate offices about getting a bill introduced, and they should talk to their senators about the need for license reciprocity.”

The telecommunications bill is coming up on this Congress’ annual deadline for enactment of bills.

For more information, contact Bill Signer at (202) 973-3141 or signer@navigantconsulting.com.

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