The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decreed that voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone services must from now on automatically link customers to a 911 emergency service, and ensure that emergency responders are able to have an originating address for the call. This has sparked fears that VoIP providers will have to raise their costs in order to keep going. This is bad news for VoIP, which most industry commentators were hoping was going to explode into something really big.

An even bigger concern of the VoIP providers is that the 911 ruling will make them vulnerable to their largest competitors, the traditional phone companies. Since those carriers control the phone connections to 911 centers, they'll be able to bill the VoIP vendors for handling calls that are transferred along those lines--or block them entirely. The traditional phone companies have lobbied hard for 911 regulations, hoping to slow down the explosive growth of VoIP services.