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VoIP Providers Given 120 Days to Provide 911 Service 626

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the in-the-event-of-an-emergency dept.
linuxwrangler writes "According to this SFGate article, federal regulators have given VoIP providers 120 days to provide 911 service to their customers. The vote came after testimony from people including a Florida woman who had her infant die after being unable to call 911 from her internet phone. VoIP providers are also required to notify their customers of the deadline and of the limitations of VoIP 911 service."
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VoIP Providers Given 120 Days to Provide 911 Service

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:02PM (#12582744)

    Wow...I'd hate to be head of that project...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:06PM (#12582784)
      That's four times as much time as you'd get for an EA project!
    • Re:120 days.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eobanb (823187)
      Well this is all nice and good, but it's also proof that the feds don't understand the internet yet. Since I can plug a VoIP phone in anywhere, how is the dispatch going to know where you are like they would with a POTS line? Run a traceroute??
      • Re:120 days.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hoggoth (414195) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:15PM (#12582897) Journal
        > proof that the feds don't understand the internet

        No, it's proof that the feds don't CARE what the technical limitations are. If you want to offer dialtone, you have to support 911 emergency calls. If a given technology can't support 911 calls then they don't want it being used for telephone service.

        People have died because of this. They don't really care why it's difficult to fix.

        Somehow I think the technical difficulties will be solved. Even if it means a database of IP address to geographic location mappings.

        • Re:120 days.... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Rasta Prefect (250915) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:19PM (#12582956)
          Even if it means a database of IP address to geographic location mappings.

          Only if IP's corresponded reliably to physical locations, which is broken to start with and gets even works when you start throwing in VPN's and tunnels.

        • Re:120 days.... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by nzkbuk (773506)
          Even if it means a database of IP address to geographic location mappings
          What about ISP's that give dynamic addresses to Cable / DSL ?

          Or maybe someone who runs their own asterisk box for family / friends and all calls go out using only 1 account ?
        • Re:120 days.... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by michrech (468134)
          Hate to break it to you but people have not died *because* of this. They died because of a lack of understanding on *their* part.

          Yes, I'm sure Vonage (and others) could have put a "hair dryer" style sticker on the top of the ATA that read something like "Warning -- Do not use for 911 calls if you are in danger", but the information (last I looked, anyway) was available as to what happens when you dial 911.

          Hmph.

          ---
          Read this [slashdot.org] if you liked calling BBS's.
          • Re:120 days.... (Score:3, Informative)

            by tgd (2822)
            Actually the packaging mentions it a number of times... as does the install process.

            The florida case was the woman's fault. Nothing more.
          • Re:120 days.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by brogdon (65526) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:44PM (#12583273) Homepage
            "Hate to break it to you but people have not died *because* of this. They died because of a lack of understanding on *their* part.

            Yes, I'm sure Vonage (and others) could have put a "hair dryer" style sticker on the top of the ATA that read something like "Warning -- Do not use for 911 calls if you are in danger", but the information (last I looked, anyway) was available as to what happens when you dial 911."


            A reasonable point, though it merits mention that Vonage is currently being sued by the state of Texas [tmcnet.com] for intentionally misleading their customers about their 911 coverage.

            Personally, I don't see what the problem is with giving them four months to handle the technical aspects of this. They've got everyone's zip code and (I would assume) a directory of each zip code's appropriate 911 response center. How hard is it to make these ends meet? I would think the chick that worked the switchboard at the Mayberry RFD phone company could handle this.
            • Re:120 days.... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by boarder (41071) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:55PM (#12583366) Homepage
              I think, if I understand the problem correctly, that they don't HAVE a directory of each zip code's appropriate 911 center. The phone companies are fighting them by not giving them this info. This is one of only two reasons that VOIP providers don't have good 911 service... no straightforward way of telling where you are and the fighting of the phone co in letting them find the 911 center.
              • Re:120 days.... (Score:5, Informative)

                by Shishak (12540) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @09:15PM (#12584954) Homepage
                Wrong,

                The PSAP information (911 Tandem switch) is all located in the Local Exchange Routing Guide (LERG). All the VoIP providers need to do is buy a subscription to the LERG from Telcordia and they will have all the information they need. The problem is, that in order to connect to the PSAP you need to be a CLEC with an interconnect Agreement with the RBOC (Verizon, SBC) for the LATA. You also need to build dedicated, diverse trunks into the PSAP switch. Since most VoIP providers are virtual phone companies, they don't have facilities in the LATA where their customers are and therefore they can't build trunks into the PSAP.

                Connecting to the PSAP is the easy part, finding out the address of one of my DSL customers that I give a dynamic IP address to is the hard part. I predict a lot of police/fire showing up at my NOC because that is the address on record for the IP.
            • Re:120 days.... (Score:3, Informative)

              by gregmac (629064)
              They've got everyone's zip code and (I would assume) a directory of each zip code's appropriate 911 response center. How hard is it to make these ends meet?

              Well, the issue is that VoIP is mobile. You can take your voip router at home and plug it in at a friend's down the street or on the other side of the globe, and it'll work. Meanwhile, the 911 operator thinks you're at home.

              That's why part of this says that the VoIP providers have to have a way for users to update their location.

              Of course, I don't kn
          • Re:120 days.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:59PM (#12583398)
            You don't know what on EARTH you are talking about. If you had read anything about the Florida woman, Cheryl Waller, such as the May 12 WSJ article, you would know she did everything she was supposed to do, but Vonage forwaded her 911 calls to a non-working, non-emergency number.

            From the WSJ article: "To get 911 service from some Internet-calling services, customers have to register their address, on top of the normal signup process. But even some customers who take that extra step -- as Ms. Waller did -- are surprised to find that their emergency calls are relegated to second-class status."

            You are such a jerk for blaming the victims. What are they supposed to do, test the system as we are repeatedly admonished not to do? Get some understanding *yourself*.
          • Re:120 days.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TopSpin (753) * on Thursday May 19, 2005 @06:24PM (#12583621) Journal
            Hate to break it to you but people have not died *because* of this. They died because of a lack of understanding on *their* part.

            Today we find VOIP phones that are indistinguishable from traditional POTS devices. They are intentionally designed to emulate traditional POTS phones. Yet, somehow, your expectation is that the caller is supposed to somehow "know" whether it's POTS or not. This is unreasonable. Many times 9-1-1 callers are using whatever phone they happen upon under stressful conditions.

            The 9-1-1 emergency number has been nearly universal throughout North America for about 37 years. The idea is simple; 9-1-1 works for things with dial tones.

            I knew this was going to happen. Over two years ago I posted [slashdot.org] my thoughts and got modded as a troll. Anything that might impede sticking it to Ma Bell must be dismissed and derided. If you're going to compete with POTS, you're going to be expected to provide parity. That's means 9-1-1 service, no ifs ands or buts.

            The solution is simple and obvious; VOIP customers will need to disclose the location of their devices so the phone company can route the 9-1-1 calls.
        • People have died because of this. They don't really care why it's difficult to fix.

          911 service only makes sense if you're using the thing as a fixed installation. If you're travelling with it, then what's the point?

          • Re:120 days.... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jfengel (409917) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:35PM (#12583152) Homepage Journal
            The point is that if there's an emergency, you need to get help FAST, without thinking about it. There's only one thing you need to know: 911. From there they can just ask you where you are. But if you have to look up the number for fire, or police, or the hospital, you could be dead before you find a phone book.

            It's only recently that E911 gave the emergency responders the ability to determine your address automatically. Asking people to know their present location isn't much. Asking them to memorize emergency numbers that they don't use often is.
        • Cell phones did not support real 911 for quite a long time and people died then too. Just because we have a new technology (square peg) doen't mean we should try and make it fit within our exiting infrastructure (round hole). I would have preferred to see it required that providers EITHER make their service 911 aware OR put a warning label on bills, sign up forms and equipment that warns Joe Sixpack he may not be able to dial 911.
          • Cell phones did not support real 911 for quite a long time

            This is different because during most/ all of this time very few people had a cell as their primary phone. Even though cells did not provide 911, if an emergency happened at home, they could call 911 on their regular phone. Today, people using voip are generally using it as their main home phone, which means that it needs 911.
        • Re:120 days.... (Score:3, Insightful)

          Somehow I think the technical difficulties will be solved. Even if it means a database of IP address to geographic location mappings.

          Another possible solution is to put a GPS or some other sort of tracking device in the phone that is activated when a 911 call is made. Just like the current system where a little light goes off on a board, but it will be a light based off of some sort of global coordinates rather than a street address. They have devices that are accurate to within 50 feet or so, definitely c

        • Re:120 days.... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by wakejagr (781977)

          I think you've got it exactly right: this is the first step towards saying "If your customers can't get in touch with emergency services easily, you can't offer this as a replacement for traditional home phone service."

          As long as the VIOP companies understand this, I don't think we need to worry about some solution being found.

      • Run a trace route? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by deft (253558)
        Sure, I guess thats really important, if you dont want to TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE WHEN YOU CALL.

        This is like that russian pencil, Million dollar US space pen email I get all the time.
        • This is like that russian pencil, Million dollar US space pen email I get all the time.

          You mean, untrue? [snopes.com]
        • by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:37PM (#12583175) Journal
          TELL THEM WHERE YOU ARE WHEN YOU CALL.

          Yes, it is really useful to tell a recording where you are! If you RTFA:

          Waller said she got a recording when she used her Internet phone to call 911 after her daughter stopped breathing last March.
          • Yes, it is really useful to tell a recording where you are!

            Why not? When I call 411 on my cell phone, the automated system asks for City, State. Why can't 911 on VoIP do the same thing if the IP being used isn't registered? VoIP will need to account for both registered and unregistered IPs. If the IP is registered, then route the call to the mapped 911 call center. If the IP is not registered, the automated system can ask for City, State the same as 411 does and route appropriately.

      • Re:120 days.... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Valdrax (32670) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:21PM (#12582977)
        Currently, with many VoIP providers, you can log in to their website and explicitly tell them where your phone is. If you move, you update this info. The order currently only mandates that user-supplied info be used but strongly suggests that they expect automatic configuration in the future.

        As for the traceroute question, the answer is, "Yes." However, I expect to see some resistance on this from the other telecom providers since it means that there will have to be an automated mechanism for finding out what physical line an IP address is connected to that is queriable by third parties. I can imagine all sorts of abuse for this sort of thing, but it seems to be a necessity to ensure emergency services.
      • Seemed to work in the Matrix. :-)
      • Re:120 days.... (Score:5, Informative)

        by bfields (66644) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:27PM (#12583055) Homepage
        Since I can plug a VoIP phone in anywhere, how is the dispatch going to know where you are like they would with a POTS line? Run a traceroute??
        From the article:
        Under the order, VoIP carriers must provide a way for customers to update their location and callback numbers when they travel. Failure to update that information would cause an emergency operator to assume the call was coming from the last registered location.

        The order also requires VoIP carriers to explain to their customers the capabilities and limitations of the emergency response service they are getting with their Internet phones. Connection to a 911 operator, for example, would not be possible for a VOIP customer if there is a power failure or loss of Internet connection.

        So I get the impression the relatively straightforward cases, like VOIP on a home DSL line, are expected to be handled automatically, but the more complicated cases--tunneling your connection back through your home network or whatever--fall under some sort of "well, we warned you, and gave you a way to tell us where you were, it's not our fault if you didn't bother" defense.

        --Bruce Fields

    • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:13PM (#12582873)
      > Wow...I'd hate to be head of that project...

      You're telling me. I googled for 120 days [google.com] and my ass is still sore.

      Out of top 10, 9 links point to DeSade's "120 Days of Sodom" (and Pasolini's movie depiction thereof in "Salo"), and as if it weren't enough trouble retrieving my bitten-off nipples back from the goddamn pigeons, the remaining link link points to something called "Windows XP Professional x64 Edition trial software", which I don't even wanna think about! Squick!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:03PM (#12582747)
    is 912.
  • by jmcmunn (307798) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:04PM (#12582762)

    My cell phone works with 911 even if you cancel all other service to the phone. Does that mean broadband and Voip companies will have to do the same?

    I always wondered why it was that my cell phone always has to have 911 access, yet Ma Bell can cut my service and I get no dial tone if I don't pay my bills.
    • Simple really; the cell network has a seperate channel specifically for 911 service, or at least that's how it was explained to me.

      When you don't pay your bill, they block you out of all the channels except the 911 channel. Maybe VoIP providers can use this as a guideline.
      • by KD7JZ (161218) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:12PM (#12582870)
        Sorry. Incorrect. The reason this works is the system will allow a handset to register on the switch serving the nearest tower, but will block call completion unless the call goes to 911 or in many cases you can charge a call to a credit card, although the rates are quite high.

        • Eh, this is just what I was told by the Cingular lady when I asked her "How is it that I can still call 911 even when my cell phone isn't connected to the network?". I'm guessing her understanding wasn't quite as good as yours.
    • by BenFranske (646563) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:06PM (#12582780) Homepage
      Usually even if your local phone service has been disconnected you can call 911.

      • Granted, I have always paid my bill so I can't tell you for sure. But upon moving into an apartment, I have no dial tone and thus cannot call anywhere until it is hooked up. I assumed it would be the same upon disconnection. No dial tone = no call
        • by Otto (17870)
          Granted, I have always paid my bill so I can't tell you for sure. But upon moving into an apartment, I have no dial tone and thus cannot call anywhere until it is hooked up. I assumed it would be the same upon disconnection. No dial tone = no call

          True, but a lot of places have stopped cutting out dial tone when there's no service available. When I moved into my apartment several years ago, the place had tone. It couldn't get incoming calls and it could call anywhere (you'd get a recorded message telling y
      • Even without a dial tone?
    • Not true. The bells can cut your service -- even to the point where you have no dialtone -- but you can still dial 911. You could go the the nastiest abandoned crack-house in the US, and as long as there's no physical damage to the phone lines you can dial those three magic digits.
  • One soloution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FidelCatsro (861135) <fidelcatsro AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:05PM (#12582767) Journal
    Would to provide new handsets with basic Mobile/cell phone phone functionality to hitch hike on the current networks emergency dialing capabilities.
    It would be a short term soloution indeed , but then 120 days is a very short term .
    • You can't design, manufacture, and ship new hardware in 120 days.
      • But you can bolt it on to older hardware within that time frame and start shipping it out if your lucky.
        Also if im not mistaken cross over handsets already exist so it would only be a case of getting a supply and starting to ship them out.

        (I can't remember if that is 100% but i am fairly sure i read an artical about cross over handsets a few months back .If anyone can confirm that..)
  • I have vonage... (Score:5, Informative)

    by infinite9 (319274) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:06PM (#12582786)
    They're already in compliance. You should read the disclaimers though. Every other paragraph goes out of its way to say that this isn't really 911 service. I guess the problem is that it's tied to your voip box. I could pack it in my suitcase and take it to florida on vacation. if I plug it into my mother's cable modem line, my phone number will ring there. Unfortunately, if I dial 911, I get the 911 dispatch center near my home in the chicago area. You can't really fault them for doing it. Maybe they could do some sort of ip address geographic lookup. But I doubt it would be reliable.
    • Re:I have vonage... (Score:5, Informative)

      by SoCalChris (573049) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:16PM (#12582918) Journal
      I am also a Vonage customer, and don't get the problem either. I've had to call 911 twice in the two years I've had Vonage (Once for a fire next door, once for a crazy man screaming at and beating his child in the street). Both times, my call was answered by the police dispatcher, and the police and fire were there within minutes. The main difference was that I had to tell them the address I was at.

      Vonage makes it very clear about how their 911 service works. If their service isn't good enough for what you need, just get a regular phone, and plug it into the POTS jack. You will have regular 911 service from there, and you don't need POTS service to be able to call 911.
    • No they're not. I had vonage for 6 months and 911 never did work, although I repeatedly went through the steps. The biggest issue not getting to the correct center, its getting to any 911 center at all. Its is not the best situation in the world, but if you were in trouble in Florida, the chicago center would answer and would get ahold of a local jurisdiction.
      • Re:I have vonage... (Score:3, Informative)

        by rpdillon (715137)
        Vonage specifically tells you you will never get through to a 911 call center. They say (over and over) it will patch you through to a local fire/police dispatcher, NOT a 911 call center. That said, I've never dialed 911 in my life (Vonage or otherwise) so I can't say whether it works as advertised or not.
    • Re:I have vonage... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ralusp (115432)
      No, they're not compliant. From section 2.2 of the Vonage TOS:

      Vonage does offer a 911-type dialing service in the U.S. (but may not offer such service in Canada) that is different in a number of important ways from traditional 911 service. ... When you dial 911, your call is routed from the Vonage network to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) or local emergency service personnel designated for the address that you listed at the time of activation. You acknowledge and understand that when you dia

  • 8x8 Already Has It (Score:2, Informative)

    by cyngus (753668)
    Just to plug a company I invest in, 8x8 or Packet8 already has E911 because they use Level3's network. So the message is, use Level3 for your network, have E911, and make me money by increasing Level3's profits! :-)
  • Stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why should VoIP providers be required to provide 911?

    You cannot be guaranteed the same level of reliability with VoIP. Public telephone service operators are held to strict regulations regarding PSTN service, ISPs are not.

    Something could break with a person's cable or DSL service and I would have to call and file a trouble ticket. Then, maybe 5 days later, a truck will arrive at their house to fix it. The next internet worm could be released at any time, causing major congestion on the internet which hind
    • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cyngus (753668) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:19PM (#12582951)
      The idea that VoIP providers must provide emergency services is bogus. If you want something for emergencies, then get a land line. The internet is not reliable enough to depend on for emergency communications like this.

      You are missing the point. The government wants technology to advance and the old phone system to be replaced. If this is going to happen, new technologies have to offer the same emergency features. "Get a land line" will eventually not be an option, when it is no longer cost-effective for the telcos to provide them. The internet is not reliable? The Internet was designed to be reliable in the face of node failure, it was one of the primary design goals of the original Arpanet. The military wanted a system that could get messages from A to C even if B failed, by finding an alternate B. Your DSL service may not be reliable, but this is not the Internet. There is a difference, and it is an important one.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Shouldn't it be that providers can say "Whoops, sorry, no 911 with our service", and that's it?
    Why can't they?
    I mean, if someone wants to pay less and go the cheap route, should they really expect the same amount of service?
    The government should NOT be regulating this kind of stuff, IMHO.
    • They cant (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695)
      If they want to be a phone company, they have to follow phone company regulations in matters like this.

      • Re:They cant (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pavera (320634)
        They don't want to be the phone company.
        The want to be Internet Telephony providers. Their networks aren't designed to be carriers of last resort (if you don't know what that means look it up). They aren't and can't be required to provide SLA's the way CLECs, ILECs, and RBOCs are. VoIP is not telephone service, it is a data service.

        This ruling is hairy because now it gives the CLECs and ILECs the precedent to say "Hey, you said these guys weren't subject to regulation, but you regulated them wrt 911, we
    • by xyzzy (10685) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:14PM (#12582887) Homepage
      They already DO that. When you sign up you have to check a zkillion boxes saying that you acknowledge that you don't have real 911 service.

      Of course, then a few people died, lawsuits ensued, and we wound up where we are now.

      Why would you expect it to be any different?

      In this case, however, I think it's a good thing. VZ and the other encumbents were playing the "oh, it's HAAAARDDD to open our 911 systems", which has to be a load of horse shit.
    • Shouldn't it be that providers can say "Whoops, sorry, no 911 with our service", and that's it?
      [...] they really expect the same amount of service?
      The government should NOT be regulating this kind of stuff, IMHO.


      For that matter, why should landline providers have to offer this type of service? Or cell phone companies? 911 isn't free. The spectrum, circuits, and caller-locating equipment costs money, all of which increases costs for consumers. Why must the government meddle in such things?

      I almost never
  • Last time... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sootman (158191) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:08PM (#12582815) Homepage Journal
    ...I moved into a place with no phone service (California, mid-1990s) the phone would work and you could call two numbers, IIRC--611 to set up phone service and 911 for emergencies. If you tried to dial anything else it wouldn't work. Am I remembering correctly? If so, is that still the case? Is that the case everywhere?
  • When will legislators learn not to hurriedly pass new laws right after terrible things happen? We all know it's not a good idea.
  • Libertarians? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by putko (753330) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:09PM (#12582831) Homepage Journal
    What do the libertarians/EFF have to say about this?

    It seems against libertarian principles to require anything of VOIP providers (other than that they not defraud people).

    E.g. they didn't say it had 911 service. Nor did they say it would work in a blackout.

    Yet it is hard to argue with (cue violins) dead babies.

    • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:12PM (#12582861)
      Yet it is hard to argue with (cue violins) dead babies.

      Yeah, but they is good eatin'

    • Re:Libertarians? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hsmith (818216)
      Simple: if there is a demand for 911 service, someone would provide it. you know good and well when you purchase the phone it lacks those numbers. you should have your local fire dept and police dept #'s written down somewhere close to the phone in case of emergency. Another example of idiots expecting people do to everything for them.
    • Re:Libertarians? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      It seems against libertarian principles to require anything of VOIP providers (other than that they not defraud people). Agreed. "Truth in labeling" laws ARE a valid function of government. Any communication from the VoIP providers should have "Hey stupid, you can't make E911 calls via this service!" written across the top of it in large red letters. I'd have no problem with the government mandating that. But mandating that any new technology work exactly like the old technology it replaces should have a ch
  • by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:11PM (#12582852) Homepage Journal
    Initially, when noticing this article, I immediately thought of Skype as potentially having issues under this legislation (due to its ability to 'Skype-out' to phone lines). The article would seem to point to it not being required to comply under the 'Instant messaging' software gotcha. If Skype were required to implement 911 support, its possible they could have problems distinguising between those who use the software for internet-based voice chat and internet telephony.
    • Looks like Skype is involved too. The submitted a request to be excluded from the regulations claming that most of their users are mobiel and do not use a handset, but since they do interconnect to the PSTN it looks like they will be are required to offer E911.

      Skyped offered a statement day offering to work with the FCC on E911.
  • Infant died? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scarolan (644274) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:11PM (#12582856) Homepage
    Could she not have run to the neighbor's house and borrowed a phone?
    • She did, but the infant was already deceased.
      Well, that's what TFA said, anyway.
    • Re:Infant died? (Score:3, Informative)

      by SecurityGuy (217807)
      RTFA. She did.

      Finding a neighbor with a phone can take a few minutes. Sometimes (like during the middle of the day) not many people are home. During the middle of the night, not many are awake and some who are will not answer. A few minutes is a lifetime (or the end of one) when someone's not breathing.

  • There was a day (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eclectro (227083) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:14PM (#12582892)
    Before 911 that you posted a telephone number for each of the emergency services next to your phone. Phone books would have the numbers inside the front cover.

    I'm sorry to hear about the infant dying. But shouldn't VOIP users if they are technically savvy to use VOIP also be responsible and be sure that they can dial (ie have phone number handy) an emergency service?

    As another idea, why not have an old cell phone around that is plugged in. You do not need to have a cell plan to dial 911.
    • Re:There was a day (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OS24Ever (245667) *
      You're not married are you? Not all geeks are lucky enough to find another computer geek to marry and procreate with. We can only have kids and teach them how to outwit their mother by the time they are 5.

      I went with Time Warner's VoIP because it had hard wired 911 we know where you are service, that is what kept me off of Vonage.

      Also what do you do if your 3 or 4 year old is smart enough to do 911 but has a problem telling you where they live other than the state?

      There are lots of instances where E9
    • NEVER use 911! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DigiShaman (671371)
      I can personally verify that 911 is useless if not dangerous. Because the response time can be in excess of 30 minutes after reporting a violent crime, it leaves a false sense of security.

      I suggest everyone program the local police, fire, and ambulance number into their cell phones. I you have a home phone, print out the numbers and stick clear packing tape over it and on the base of the phone.

      Do NOT use 911. It's more then a joke...it's fucking down right dangerous.
    • those days are gone (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kebes (861706) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @06:52PM (#12583853) Journal
      When I switched to VoIP I thought the same thing: "even if 911 doesn't work, I'll just dial the number for the police station or fire station or whatever." So I contacted the local police station and asked what the # was for calling in an emergency. They said: "911" ... no matter how many agencies I asked about calling the emergency center or police station directly, they all said: "no, direct calling has been phased out... you have to call 911." Calling a police station directly means you are calling about something non-critical and will be put on hold or get a machine.

      I don't know how widespread this problem is, but the "direct calling" idea is no longer an option in some locations. Sad, really.
  • well, then- (Score:3, Funny)

    by csimicah (592121) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:15PM (#12582901)
    Dammit, then, I should be able to push "9-1-1" right now on my numeric keypad and somehow be connected! After all, I'm on the Intarweb, and the numbers are RIGHT THERE!

    My baby could DIE!
  • by Otto (17870) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:17PM (#12582925) Homepage Journal
    Vonage, to pick an example, already supports 911 services. But you have to set it up to tell it where to call. Most people, including that stupid lady in the article, simply don't set up the 911 service. All Vonage will likely do is change it to where you must setup your 911 service before the system actually works.

    But then I gotta wonder, how loosely do they define "VoIP" services? I mean, Skype is a VoIP service, technically. You can use it to connect to the PSTN and dial phone numbers if you pay for the priviledge, right? It's outgoing only though. But how in the heck would they handle this sort of thing? Configure the client with where you are? Would this law even apply?

    These are the kind of problems I see with regulating this sort of thing too early.
    • by KD7JZ (161218) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:22PM (#12582993)
      The biggest technical problem is that most e-911 calls go on a dedicated trunk to the 911 call center. There is no 'phone number' associated with that line. So what vonage was doing was just getting a listed directory number for the police in a given jurisdiction and forwarding calls to that number. (often not answered at night etc). This order will require the VOIP provider to coordinate with local telephone companies to have the VOIP 911 calls get delivered over those dedicated trunks.
      • by pavera (320634) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:59PM (#12583400) Homepage Journal
        Technically there are "phone numbers" associated with those lines, they are just heavily guarded secrets of the ILECs, the only people who know them. 911 call centers have regular numbers associated with them (the association is held in the PSAP database), and when you dial 911, the ILECs switch does a lookup in the PSAP database, finds which call center is responsible for your call, and routes it there. Then when the call hits the call center, their system dips the MSAG database with your phone number and pulls up your street info...

        That is the problem with this ruling. It mandates that the VoIP providers provide full 911 service, but doesn't require any cooperation from their main competitors the ILECs. So, if the ILECs choose not to give out the dedicated 911 numbers so that VoIP providers can route directly to them, or if they decide to charge exhorbitant fees (more likely), the FCC has given them a free get out of jail card here. The ILECs by simply not doing anything can put all the VoIP providers out of business now.
        • by KD7JZ (161218) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @06:06PM (#12583474)
          Your description may be accurate for many (most) PSAPs served by RBOCs (the baby bells). However, there are 1500 other local telephone companies that serve many rural areas. (I happen to work for one.) I know that not all the PSAPs in our areas have directory numbers associated with them.
          • Ok, I didn't know that.
            I worked for a while at a CLEC actually setting up our 911 interconnection with the ILEC here and the 911 call centers had routable numbers.
  • by SenFo (761716) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:19PM (#12582947) Homepage
    Looks like I have 120 days to gather as many names as possible of houses strictly running VOIP phones so I can rob them of all their property while they sit back and wait for the 911 service to be connected ;-).

    Seriously, though, I must be ignorant on this subject. I had no idea you couldn't dial 911 from a VOIP telephone. To be honest, I never gave it much thought.
  • Nine times out of 10 the person on the line can say approximately where they are. That should take no more than 3 seconds. In cases where someone dials, but cannot speak or is forcibly removed from the phone, this is a problem.

    Regarding that problem, there are several issues. A traceroute or database of who is using top-level IPs and their locations is a workaround. Perhaps a better idea is new and open VoIP standards. There could be a way to code the "area" into the data packet if an emergency number
  • Not ready for homes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Palshife (60519) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:21PM (#12582975) Homepage
    This is a bad move, in my opinion. All this does is force people to provide "good enough" service in the next 120 days. If the issue is that VoIP calls to 911 are problematic, then attach a stigma to using it in the home. No amount of money saved is going to make me trust a system created in 4 months as opposed to one that's been refined for decades.

    If it's not ready for the home, then it's not ready. VoIP should start with businesses. If you really want it in your house, I believe it should come with the understanding that 911 is either going to be suboptimal or just plain unreliable.
  • When I subscribed I had to have Vonage configure my 911 service. It took some time, but it ended up working out. The key is this though...if my Broadband connection goes down for any reason, so does my 911 service. SO...I have a stand-by cdll phone just in case.

    Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is here. At least with Vonage, the make sure you understand you need to configure 911. User responsibility...go figure.
  • "the feds" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by almostmanda (774265) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:27PM (#12583051)
    Yeah, right. We know who is really pushing for this--phone companies who want to put VOIP providers out of business or at leaast bleed them financially. If nothing else, it's a scare tactic. "Not yet, Joe Consumer. You want to keep your land line in case of an emergency!" While I agree that VOIP companies should disclose their 911 abilities and should make moves towards getting 911 working, 120 days is an unreasonably short amount of time, and seems designed for failure with companies who haven't even started yet. How about we give them a year so they can put something reliable together instead of each company scrambling to hack it together before they're fined?
  • by GMFTatsujin (239569) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:27PM (#12583057) Homepage
    Let's not forget, VoIP *is* going over the Internet...

    (Caller dials 911)

    Caller: Help! Emergency! My baby's not breathing!
    Operator: OMG!
    Caller: Send help right away!
    Operator: A/S/L?
  • How saddening (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:35PM (#12583148) Homepage Journal
    If that story is true it must be heart wrenching to know that if you had simply kept a list of emergency telephone numbers (real local numbers like everyone did pre-911) that things would have turned out differently.

    Note to self: The 911 system is based on technology working correctly, have a backup system.
  • by Supp0rtLinux (594509) <Supp0rtLinux@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:45PM (#12583277)
    You call 911 and get a busy tone...

    Or you call 911 and get a recording that they're overwhelmed with calls at the time...

    Or when you work at a 7-11 and a guy robs you at gunpoint and you call 911 and they say they're really busy and won't be there for 30 minutes... (happened to me a few years back)

    My point??? I can see plenty of times the system has failed or people have died even when 911 service was available.
  • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:47PM (#12583304)
    What if the customer had to register the MAC Address of their VOIP adapter (or router) with their provider and gave the address 911 should respond to. Lots of people use VoIP as a substitute for their regular phone line so their location does not change realative to this. When they make a 911 call, the VOIP provider would send this address to the dispatch center as the location of the caller.

    This address would be changable either by calling the VoIP provider or can be changed online. The customer would be responsible for keeping the address up to date if their location changes.

    If they make a 911 call and the router isn't at the location they have listed and they don't tell the operator their real location otherwise, they would have no one to blame but themselves. Their VoIP provider isn't psycic as to where they are.
  • by uberdave (526529) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @05:56PM (#12583373) Homepage
    Time for Google to unveil their new "Where Am I?" service.
  • by GeoGreg (631708) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @06:55PM (#12583887)
    The Florida woman whose case is described in the SFgate article did not misconfigure her phone it seems. According to this this story [wesh.com]:
    "[W]hen Waller called 911 through Vonage, her broadband phone service provider, all she got was a non-emergency sheriff's recording. She ran to a neighbor's house and finally got through to a 911 dispatcher.

    So, Vonage connected her to a non-emergency number that is not answered 24/7. Not a good idea. I know that in some cities (such as Denver, where I live), there is no emergency number that is widely published. I can't look one up; 911 is the only number the police provide.

  • by burnsy (563104) on Thursday May 19, 2005 @07:01PM (#12583972)
    Jeff Pulver of Freeworlddialup (not subject to the order) wrote at his blog [pulver.com]...

    My final thought on today's events: Amidst all the emotionally heart-wrenching anecdotes about failed Vonage 911 calls, no one ever mentioned the failures of traditional carrier emergency response services. I'm forced to wonder what would have happened if the FCC had paraded the spouses and parents of those who died when 911 failed on traditional wireline and wireless networks? I guess that wouldn't be acceptable - that might scare consumers of traditional telecom services and antagonize the traditional communications power structure. Let's bully the new weak kids in town but not draw attention to current emergency response failures by those that are capable of fighting back.

    Couldn't agree more. This order is just the stepping stone to full regulation of VOIP inlcuding lawful intercept (CALEA) in order to kill it on behalf of the BOCs.
  • by david.given (6740) <dg@co w l a r k . c om> on Thursday May 19, 2005 @07:14PM (#12584114) Homepage Journal
    I don't know what it's like in the US, but here in the UK all phones that require an external power supply have a large warning label telling you that you should not use it as your primary telephone.

    The problem is that if there's a power cut, all the mains-powered phones stop working. However, dumb phones are powered from the phone line, and remain operative. (I once spent some time in a holiday house with no electricity at all, except for the telephone.)

    You probably don't want to train people to rely on unreliable devices like computers for emergencies --- you want to train them than when they need to call emergency services, get a real phone.

  • by micron (164661) on Friday May 20, 2005 @02:11AM (#12586373)
    I have been using VoIP for over a year at home, and I enjoy the technology. I run it over my cable modem. Comparing how reliable my cable service is, vs how reliable my POTS line is; I knew that I needed to keep a minimum POTS line active, just in case.

    The device that I use is called a Sipura 3000 analog adapter. It allows my cordless phone system to plug into ethernet for VoIP. Another nice feature is that I can plug my POTS line in to it as well.

    I have programmed the device to route 411 and 911 calls made from my cordless phones on to the POTS line instead of the VoIP line. That gives me full, reliable 911 service without having to inform my guests that some phones are for dialing, and other phones are for 911. Every phone can reach 911.

    Another nice feature of this system is that it also routes all calls to the POTS line in the event of 1) VoIP service outage or 2) general power outage.

    There are also programmable features for routing specific calls to specific gateways based on charateristics that you define. Gateway 0 is for POTS, gateways 1-3 (there are more than 2, can't remember the upper limit) are for VoIP services.

    If your VoIP provider allows BYOD, it is definitally worth checking out.

    btw: the TX case in this mess is interesting. I was in Houston on business when it happened. The customer in question was interviewed on the news. The customer claimed that he had no knowledge that Vonage did not handle 911. Seeing all the warnings that Vonage give you, it would actually take some effort to ignore the warnings. No sympathy.

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