Small Businesses Could be Required to Replace Phones

Date: March 28, 2016 Last Edit: April 04, 2016

Small businesses with more than 7000 square feet of space
and a multi-line phone system could be required to scrap their phones and buy a
new system before December 31 of this year under a little known rule.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has issued new
rules regulating the provision of 911 service over Multi-Line Telephone
Systems. Under current multi-line phone systems (MLTS/PBX systems), an outgoing
call to a 911 emergency operator indicates the street location where the call
is coming from. The new rules require that the phone system give the 911
operator more precise information that would include the actual location within
the building, such as a specific office or conference room for example, in
addition to the street location of the business.

Since many existing multi-line phone systems do not have
this capability, small businesses would be required to replace them with newer
systems – even if the existing phone system meets the current needs of the
business owner. Replacing a typical multi line phone system can run into the
thousands of dollars in addition to the time and expense for installation and
training on a new system.

The original rule was written to apply to larger businesses
with more than 40,000 square feet, but during the rules promulgation process
the square footage threshold was lowered to 7,000 square feet. Also, the required
changes were initially scheduled to take effect on December 31, 2011, but the
deadline was extended to December 31, 2016.

Business locations that own MLTS/PBX systems, but are unable
to meet the deadline of December 31, 2016 for compliance with the rules are
required to notify the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Public Service
Commission by letter to be dated no later than December 1, 2016.

The rules also state that businesses in violation of the act
after December 31, 2016 may be assessed a fine by the commission from $500.00
to $5,000.00 per offense.

NFIB and other business groups are working to address this
poorly constructed rule and the problems it will create for small business.
Clearly, there was no serious attempt to determine the impact on small business
when the square foot threshold was changed from 40,000 to 7,000 square feet. In
addition, it has been learned that not even all of the 911 regions
participating in this upgrade have a universal ability to interface with all
new MLTS/PBX systems that meet the requirement. In other words, a new system
that meets the requirement for one 911 region, may not work in a different 911
region. A business with multiple locations that cross 911 jurisdictions could
be required to have two different systems. Finally, there is even confusion as
to what state agency has the authority to implement the rule – the Michigan
State Police or the Michigan Public Service Commission. Asking small businesses
to deal with two agencies for the same rule is proof positive that this rule
needs to be sent back to the drawing board and the December deadline rescinded.

Listen to NFIB State Director Charlie Owens discuss this issue on the Frank Beckmann Show – WJR AM

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