Autauga County Emergency Management Communication District v. Federal Communications Commission, No. 19-15072 (11th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
New “Voice over Internet Protocol,” (VoIP) systems resulted in the 2008 New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act, 47 U.S.C. 222, 615a, 615a-1, 615b and 942.2 The “911 Fee Parity Provision” allows non-federal government entities to charge a fee to commercial phone services for the support of 911 services but specifies that, “[f]or each class of subscribers to IP-enabled voice services, the fee or charge may not exceed the amount of any such fee or charge applicable to the same class of subscribers to telecommunications services.”
Alabama 911 Districts contended that the Provision authorized them to charge non-VoIP service providers per access line and VoIP service providers per 10-digit telephone number even if the total charges for a given class of VoIP subscribers exceed the total charges for the same class of non-VoIP subscribers for the same amount of burden each group imposes on the 911 system.
The district court referred the matter to the FCC, which concluded that the Provision prohibits state and local governments from charging 911 fees to VoIP providers that are greater than those charged to non-VoIP providers for the same amount of burden imposed on the 911 system. The order precludes the 911 Districts from charging VoIP providers and non-VoIP providers the same base fee based on different units if the total fee charged for comparable 911 access is higher for VoIP service providers. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding Congress’s intent unambiguous.