9-1-1 Obligations of Local VoIP Service Providers in Canada

Companies that wish to offer local voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone services in Canada must meet certain obligations and provide specific documentation to the Commission.Footnote 1

What is considered a local VoIP service provider?

Local VoIP service providers (i) provide their customers with telephone numbers that conform to the North American Numbering Plan, (ii) provide access to and from the public switched telephone network, and (iii) enable customers to make and/or receive calls that originate and terminate within an exchange or a local calling area. (For more information, see Emergency service obligations for local VoIP service providers, Telecom Decision CRTC 2005-21, 4 April 2005.)

A company’s use of VoIP technology does not make the company a local VoIP service provider automatically. It has to meet the above criteria to be considered a local VoIP provider. For example, companies that provide only long-distance services and/or services to carriers – such as international services for carriers ‒ would not be considered as local VoIP service providers and would not have to meet the obligations set out below.

The three major obligations for local VoIP service providers in Canada are as follows:

  1. To provide either Basic or Enhanced 9-1-1 service to their customers (Telecom Decision CRTC 2005-21).
  2. To provide customer notification indicating any service limitations with respect to their 9-1-1 or enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) service (Telecom Decisions CRTC 2005-21 and 2005-61). These notifications must be provided to customers upon sign-up and installation, in marketing materials, and in the terms of service. They must also be posted on the Web through an easily accessible link.
    This second obligation applies only to providers of nomadic and fixed/non-native local VoIP services.
  3. To register with the Commission as a reseller. If the company owns and controls transmission facilities, it has to register with the Commission as a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) (Telecom Decision CRTC 2005-28).
    Whether the company is a reseller or a CLEC, it must also obtain a basic international telecommunications services (BITS) licence from the Commission if the company carries telecommunications traffic internationally.
    Companies are required to keep up to date with all ongoing regulatory filings to maintain their BITS licence and registration. Failure to do so could lead to deregistration and loss of the BITS licence.

Local VoIP service providers are advised to consult Telecom Decisions CRTC 2005-21 and 2005-61 for full details regarding their emergency service obligations.

Local VoIP service providers are also advised to consult the CRTC’s decision 2017-182 regarding upcoming next-generation 9-1-1 services.

Information required by the Commission

If a company wants to become a local VoIP service provider in Canada, it must send a letter to the Commission

  • indicating its intention to become a local VoIP service provider;
  • providing answers to the questions outlined below in Attachment 1 (this attachment should be Attachment 1 of the letter);
  • providing proposed customer notification texts based on Attachment 2 below for Commission approval (this attachment should be Attachment 2 of the letter), as well as mockup links to the company’s website showing the customer notification texts.

Submissions should be addressed to

Danielle May-Cuconato
Secretary General
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N2

Please copy the following in its entirety as the subject of the letter and insert the name of your company:

Subject: “[Name of Your Company] Obligations of local VoIP service providers with respect to 9-1-1 emergency service and registration with the Commission ‒ File No.: 8663-C12-201015470.”

How to submit the documents

The information requested can be submitted electronically through the Commission’s website by choosing My CRTC Account and Telecom Cover Page.

For help meeting the obligations

Find examples of what other local VoIP service providers have submitted to the Commission.

For more information on the registration process, please see the following:

For more information on the obligations of local VoIP service providers, please contact Telecom Info by phone at 1-877-793-8444.

Attachment 1 to your letter to the Commission

Subject: “[Name of Your Company] Obligations of local VoIP service providers with respect to 9-1-1 emergency service and registration with the Commission ‒ File No.: 8663-C12-201015470.”

  1. Confirmation that your company is providing 9-1-1 service in accordance with Telecom Decision 2005-21.
    1. If so,
      1. Indicate the 9-1-1 answering bureau that your company uses, with which your company has a direct contract. 
        If your company has no direct contract with the 9-1-1 answering and routing provider, indicate the intermediate company (ies) which you have a contract with. Provide proof of contract or executive attestation from the intermediate company that it provides your company with 9-1-1 services by virtue of, or through, its direct contract with the 9-1-1 provider.
        Contact names, telephone numbers, and email addresses are to be provided for each company identified.
      2. Indicate the LEC or reseller from which the company obtains its customers’ telephone numbers and other network services that enable it to offer local VoIP services.
        Contact names, telephone numbers, and email addresses are to be provided for each company identified.
      3. Confirm that the company obtains, prior to commencement of service, the customer’s express consent, by which the customer acknowledges his/her understanding of the 9-1-1/E9-1-1 service limitations and indicate the method by which express consent is obtained.Footnote 2
      4. Confirm that the company ensures that customers are able to update their most likely physical address online.
    2. If not, provide a detailed plan and a timetable for the provision of 9-1-1 service to Canadian customers.
    3. If your company is an existing local VoIP service provider, indicate the number of customer lines served, broken down by access-dependent and access-independent (i.e. fixed vs. nomadic VoIP).
    4. Confirm whether your company owns and operates its own transmission facilities in Canada.
    5. Provide your company’s legal name, business registration number, and the jurisdiction in which your company is registered.
  2. The following documentation for review and approval by the Commission if your company is providing fixed/non-native or nomadic VoIP services (see Attachment 2 for a template)
    1. a copy of the mandatory 9-1-1 emergency service customer notification texts;
    2. a copy of the company’s limitations of liability with respect to VoIP 9-1-1 service;
    3. a mockup of the company’s website, showing both the content referred to in 2)a) and 2)b) above and the links to that content. Upon Commission approval of the customer notification texts, the links are expected to become active online within five business days; and
    4. a copy of the proposed telephone warning set sticker, or the text that would appear on the sticker, which indicates (i) that when making 9-1-1 calls, customers must be prepared to provide their present address/location, and (ii) where to find additional information.
  3. Confirmation that your company
    1. is registered with the Commission as a reseller or, if owning facilities, as a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC)
      Companies that are registered as non-dominant carriers and that provide local VoIP services are required to register as CLECs
    2. has obtained a Basic International Telecommunications Services (BITS) licence
    3. if registered and has a BITS licence, is up to date with all ongoing regulatory filings to maintain the BITS licence and registration. Failure to keep current on ongoing regulatory filings will cause deregistration and loss of the BITS licence.

Companies that are not yet registered can find guidelines on how to do so. Companies that do not have a BITS licence can get information on applying for this licence. Companies can register either electronically or by using the DCS [Data Collection System] Contact Form, by telephone at 819-997-4597 or toll-free at 1-877-249-2782, by fax at 819-994-0218, or by email through cd-dc@crtc.gc.ca.

For additional information on the obligations of local VoIP service providers, contact Info Telecom at 1-877-793-8444.

Attachment 2 to your letter to the Commission

Suggested starter kit notifications

External starter kit notification:

On the outside of the starter kit, (Company Name) will place the following customer notification in English/French (as appropriate):

VoIP 9-1-1 emergency service is different than traditional telephone 9-1-1 services. See enclosed documents for further important details.

Inside starter kit:

Inside the starter kit, (company name) will include documentation/user tips with the following text in English/French (as appropriate):

IMPORTANT 9-1-1 INFORMATION

We want to make sure that you are aware of important differences in the way 9-1-1 service operates with a VoIP phone when compared with traditional telephone service. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

Differences between traditional 9-1-1 service and VoIP phone 9-1-1

With traditional phone services, your 9-1-1 call is sent directly to the nearest emergency response centre. With VoIP phone service, your 9-1-1 call is forwarded to a third-party service provider that will automatically or manually route your call to the emergency response centre.

Remember to provide your location

Because you can move your VoIP phone between locations and because, for technical reasons, the emergency operator may not have your name, location or contact information available, you must immediately inform the emergency operator of your location and contact particulars any time you call 9-1-1. Do not risk sending police or ambulance services to the wrong location.

Be prepared during any service interruption

VoIP phone service depends not only on your continued subscription (and payment) for the service, but also on Internet connectivity and power to function. In the event of power, network, or Internet outages (including congestion), or if your service is disconnected or suspended due to non-payment, you may experience a failure, disruption or delay in your 9-1-1 service. We recommend that you keep an alternative phone service (such as a cellular telephone) handy to increase the reliability of your access to emergency services during any service interruption.

Do not disconnect

Until you are told to do so by an emergency dispatcher, do not disconnect your 9-1-1 call. If you are inadvertently disconnected, call back immediately.

Keep your service address up to date

(Company name) will attempt to provide the emergency operator with your service address, so please ensure that your information on file with us is always accurate and updated. If you do not do this (for example, if you are unable to speak during a 9-1-1 call), the emergency operator may assume that you are calling from the last registered address.

Inform other users

You must notify members of your household and other potential users of your VoIP phone service of the nature and limitations of 9-1-1 emergency calls. To make this easier, attach the included stickers in a visible location on your telephone sets.

Limitations of liability

(Company name)’s terms of service limit and disclaim liability related to VoIP 9-1-1 service, so please read these carefully.

(Insert your own limitations of liability here:)

For a complete description of our VoIP 9-1-1 service, please see (company name)’s terms of service at www.company.name.website.ca

Telephone set stickers inside starter kit:

Inside the starter kit, (company name) will include telephone set warning stickers with the following text:

ATTENTION

When dialing 9-1-1, be prepared to provide your address/location.

For more details visit www.company.name.website.ca

The URL indicated on the warning sticker goes to (company name)’s website, on which each page will contain a link to (company name)’s Terms of Service and other important notification items.

Suggested marketing / point of sale notifications

Printed marketing materials:

For its printed marketing materials, (company name) intends to use the following customer notification texts (examples) depending on the nature of the advertisement or promotion:

VoIP phone emergency 9-1-1 features differ from traditional 9-1-1 services. See sales representative for further details.

VoIP phone emergency 9-1-1 features differ from traditional 9-1-1 services. Visit www.company.name.website.ca for more information.

Note: Notifications similar to those above are also required in the event a local VoIP service provider is making use of other forms of advertising and or promotion such as with television, radio, or other forms of media.

Customer activation:

When customers call (company name) to request activation of their VoIP service, (company name)’s representative will notify them of the documents in the starter kit and how the VoIP emergency 9-1-1 services differ from traditional 9-1-1 services. Once their VoIP service is ready to be activated, customers will, through the Internet, log onto their account management site to activate their 9-1-1 service. As part of the activation process, text similar to the printed 9-1-1 documents will be presented to the customers and the customers will be presented with the following in English/French (as appropriate) and their selections will be captured:

I agree that I have read and understand the 9-1-1 service limitations described

above.

[link: "I Agree" (to proceed with activation)]

[link: "I Do Not Agree" (to cancel activation)]

Customer service/point of sales:

(Company name)’s customer service and sales representatives will be fully versed in the contents of the VoIP 9-1-1 documents for discussion with potential customers.

On-line:

On-line marketing on (company name)’s website will contain a link to its Terms of Service prefaced with the following text:

VoIP phone emergency 9-1-1 features differ from traditional 9-1-1 emergency services. Visit [link] [www.company.name.website.ca] for more information

Suggested terms of service notifications

This section contains important provisions, including those regarding 9-1-1 service

Description: VoIP services allow you to make or receive telephone calls over the Internet to or from the public switched telephone network. The nature of VoIP telephone calls, while appearing similar to traditional telephone calling services, create unique limitations and circumstances, and you acknowledge and agree that differences exist between traditional telephone service and VoIP telephone services, including the lack of traditional 9-1-1 emergency services.

9-1-1 service: Because of the unique nature of VoIP telephone calls, emergency calls to 9-1-1 through your VoIP service will be handled differently than traditional phone service. The following provisions describe the differences and limitations of 9-1-1 emergency calls, and you hereby acknowledge and understand the differences between traditional 9-1-1 service and VoIP calls with respect to 9-1-1 calls placed to emergency services from your account as described below.

Placing 9-1-1 calls: When you make a 9-1-1 emergency call, the VoIP service will attempt to automatically route your 9-1-1 call through a third-party service provider to the Public Safety Answering Point (“PSAP”) corresponding to your address of record on your account. However, due to the limitations of the VoIP telephone services, your 9-1-1 call may be routed to a different location than that which would be used for traditional 9-1-1 dialling. For example, your call may be forwarded to a third-party specialized call centre that handles emergency calls. This call centre is different from the PSAP that would answer a traditional 9-1-1 call which has automatically generated your address information, and consequently, you may be required to provide your name, address, and telephone number to the call centre.

How your information is provided: The VoIP service will attempt to automatically provide the PSAP dispatcher or emergency service operator with the name, address and telephone number associated with your account.  However, for technical reasons, the dispatcher receiving the call may not be able to capture or retain your name, phone number or physical location. Therefore, when making a 9-1-1 emergency call, you must immediately inform the dispatcher of your location (or the location of the emergency, if different). If you are unable to speak, the dispatcher may not be able to locate you if your location information is not up to date.

Correctness of information: You are responsible for providing, maintaining, and updating correct contact information (including name, residential address and telephone number) with your account. If you do not correctly identify the actual location where you are located, or if your account information has recently changed or has otherwise not been updated, 9-1-1 calls may be misdirected to an incorrect emergency response site.

Disconnections: You must not disconnect the 9-1-1 emergency call until told to do so by the dispatcher, as the dispatcher may not have your number or contact information. If you are inadvertently disconnected, you must call back immediately.

Connection time: For technical reasons, including network congestion, it is possible that a 9-1-1 emergency call will produce a busy signal or will take longer to connect when compared with traditional 9-1-1 calls.

9-1-1 calls may not function: For technical reasons, the functionality of 9-1-1 VoIP emergency calls may cease or be curtailed in various circumstances, including but not limited to:

Failure of service or your service access device - if your system access equipment fails or is not configured correctly, or if your VoIP service is not functioning correctly for any reason, including power outages, VoIP service outage, suspension or disconnection of your service due to billing issues, network or Internet congestion, or network or Internet outage in the event of a power, network or Internet outage; you may need to reset or reconfigure the system access equipment before being able to use the VoIP service, including for 9-1-1 emergency calls; and changing locations - if you move your system access equipment to a location other than that described in your account information or otherwise on record with (company name).

Alternate services: If you are not comfortable with the limitations of 9-1-1 emergency calls, (company name) recommends that you terminate the VoIP services or consider an alternate means for accessing traditional 9-1-1 emergency services.

Inform other users: You are responsible for notifying, and you agree to notify, any user or potential users of your VoIP services of the nature and limitations of 9-1-1 emergency calls on the VoIP services as described herein.

Liability: Customers are advised to review this section with respect to (company name)’s limitations of liability (as appropriate to each company).

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