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Vonage 911 Deadline Passed 315

An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo is reporting that the FCC may block any new customers wishing to sign up with Vonage. The internet phone service company has passed the Monday deadline that was given to them to provide reliable 911 service. From the article: "The company -- which has more than 1 million subscribers -- said it was capable of transmitting a call back number and location for 100 percent of its subscribers, but that it still was waiting for cooperation from competitors that control the 911 network."
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Vonage 911 Deadline Passed

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  • Profit? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by squidguy ( 846256 )
    Sounds like a good deal for the rest of the VOIP providers?
  • by ChipMonk ( 711367 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:05PM (#14142920) Journal
    'Scuse me, Ma Bell Jr., aka SBC. I can hear Ernestine now, yanking the wires: "Oops, there went 911!"

    Whatever happened to "common carrier" status?
  • Fines (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Punboy ( 737239 ) * on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:05PM (#14142925) Homepage
    Shouldn't the uncooperative companies be fined/sued? After all, they were supposed to cooperate and they didn't.
    • Re:Fines (Score:3, Interesting)

      by scenestar ( 828656 )
      That would be Unamerican
    • Re:Fines (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mundocani ( 99058 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:28PM (#14143094)
      I think that would depend on whether they're truely being "uncooperative" or if Vonage is blowing smoke to cover up their own technical inadequacies.
      • Re:Fines (Score:4, Insightful)

        by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) * <> on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:17PM (#14143399) Homepage Journal
        I'm a Vonage user, and have been for several months now.

            They've requested every user to provide a street address to their Vonage service.

            Unfortunately, this doesn't address the obvious problem with that. I, as a Vonage user, can plug my modem in anywhere. If I go to a friends house in another state or country, my phone numbers go with me.

            I, being technically adept, know that 911 won't work properly. I won't dial 911 from that phone.

            I like to have a phone number that isn't associated with a physical address, for various reasons. If I decide to sit down at a hotel in Moscow, and set up a VPN to make myself look like I'm in another country (say Canada), now I'll have an IP in Canada, with a phone number in America, but I'm sitting in Russia. The whole reason for doing this 911 thing isn't totally so emergency response can show up in case of emergency, while that is a nice feature. It's so the government can show up, should they have a phone number associated with someone doing something they don't like. I've noticed they've left the magic work "Terrorist" off this issue entirely.

            With POTS lines, they obviously go to an address, or somewhere very close. (cordless phone, or max wire length from that location).

            With Cell phones, E911 service reports the GPS coordinates. They are also traceable by cell towers and triangulation.

            With VoIP, at most they may get an IP, but at worst, you can make phone calls from anywhere, pretending to be anywhere else. That doesn't make the government very happy.
        • Re:Fines (Score:2, Insightful)

          by monkeydo ( 173558 )
          Your paranoid elusion aside, real people have died because they tried to call 911 using a VoIP carrier. Great, you're savvy enough not to use that phone, but is your kid? Your wife? Your neighbor who finds you lying unconcious on the floor of your kitchen?
        • With Asterick and an appropriate (and inexpensive) analog card, you can make your home POTS line accessible from anywhere on the internet. VOIP negates the usefulness of regular phone lines, too, to a certain extent...
    • Re:Fines (Score:5, Insightful)

      by XorNand ( 517466 ) * on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:04PM (#14143329)
      From the time the FCC released the new rules, VoIP providers only had four months to provide E911 services to all of their customers. Wireless carriers (who have considerably more clout and better paid lobbyists), were given ten years to comply. Still think it's fair to start slapping fines on an industry that's barely out of the gate?

      • I believe part of the wireless argument was that they needed to get newer handsets out to their users, with GPS capability. Without that, they had nothing.

        VoIP can be on virtually any hardware, and worse, they are used almost exclusively indoors, so GPS won't work. They don't have a solid solution for tracking where the caller is, other than the caller being honest and giving a good address for them to find the user at.

        At very best, they could request that ever
    • Re:Fines (Score:4, Insightful)

      by king-manic ( 409855 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:59PM (#14143608)
      Shouldn't the uncooperative companies be fined/sued? After all, they were supposed to cooperate and they didn't.

      Vonage: Hi, I want to steal all your customers from you and corrupt your business model, can you please help us enable 911 services on our phones. The government didn't say if you had to or not, please.. pretty please?
      • Re:Fines (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rk ( 6314 ) *

        Yeah, that's really convenient for the big telcos to have a regulatory body force any new potential competitors to come to them hat in hand before they can operate. I'm sure that happened completely by accident.

    • Yes, they should be fined/sued/criminally charged as anyone should be who knowingly inhibited a 911 call from being completed properly.
      Except, those same companies are the ones who paid off the politicians who are pushing this. It's the entrenched companies losing out to lower priced VOIP providers who are behind the push.

      Yes, the VOIP providers should provide equivalent service if that's how they are selling it. But the phone providers upstream who are getting in the way of their competition need to be s
  • Packet8 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ECXStar ( 533351 )
    I subscribe to Packet8 and they rolled it out today. Wonder what's keeping Vonage and others from getting this rolled out?
    • Re:Packet8 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bourbonium ( 454366 )
      Yeah, I got the same message from Packet8. I've had the VOIP service since last April and have been very pleased with them so far. Of course, I've never had to call 911 since I cut my POTS line (but I thought that's what cell phones were for). I am a bit annoyed that my bill will now go up $1.99 a month to cover the costs of this additional service, but it's still cheaper than SBC. Kind of annoying, though, that the Packet8 customers who have been paying the $1.50 per month for this service before it wa
      • Re:Packet8 (Score:5, Informative)

        by Woody77 ( 118089 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:39PM (#14143521)
        "land-lines" have a major advantage over cell phones (at least in california). Here, if you call 911 on a cell phone, you get forwarded to one of two CHP call centers, they can be massively swamped during rush hour, and really have no idea about your area.

        A land-line 911 call, however, goes straight into your local fire/ems dispatch center, and they usually respond faster, respond the right engines/ambulances, and even get the roads right.

        (volunteer FF in Cali)
        • The hurricanes this summer also showed why land lines are superior to cellphones. When almost no one could get through using cellphones, a good bit of land lines were still up and running.
          • The hurricanes this summer also showed why land lines are superior to cellphones. When almost no one could get through using cellphones, a good bit of land lines were still up and running.

            And during the attacks in New York on 9/11/2001 it was the other way around. Most of the land lines were jammed and had issues whereas cell phones ruled the day.

            Both have an infrastructure that if it gets whacked, will put them out of commission. It just depends on who gets whacked that day.

        • Re:Packet8 (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Alex Zepeda ( 10955 )
          Mod the parent up. I've had occasion to call 911 on my cell phone a handful of times.

          Recently, on my way to San Francisco I saw a car that had driven off the highway, and into a ditch (wheels were still spinning). So I called 911. By the time I was able to get through to a real person, I had crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, and my phone promptly died. Being on hold for that long (5-10 minutes) is just UNACCEPTABLE. This was at about 1:30 in the morning. So once I arrived at my destination, I pluged my
  • by DaedalusLogic ( 449896 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:06PM (#14142934)
    We have completed 911 Dialing activation for your Vonage line...

    Now when you dial 911, Vonage will route your call to a general number at your nearest emergency response center, based on the address below:

    If this address is incorrect, simply click on the following link to login to your web account x.htm [] and edit your information from the 911 Dialing feature box.

    Please note if you move your device you must reactivate 911 Dialing with your new address. If you add a line to your account you will need to activate 911 Dialing for that line as well.

    If you would like more information about Vonage's 911 Dialing service, please visit the 911 Feature page at [] If you have any questions please reply to this email, or call us Toll Free at: 1-VONAGE-HELP (1-866-243-4357), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    We appreciate your business. ...

    So what gives?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      RTFA, hack

      The problem isn't that Vonage doesn't let your reach a 911 operator (though in the past, that has been a problem in some areas)

      The problem is that the 911 operator doesn't get your number and address. Name and address are Enhanced 911 (E911), and that's the requirement. Without E911, the 911 operator has no idea who you are nor where you are.

      • RTFC... Jackass (Score:3, Informative)

        They included my address in the e-mail... and that's what they are reporting for E911.

        I have been a customer for years... using really old Cisco ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) hardware... in one of the smaller metro markets they are in... If they can get to me, I would expect them to be hitting more than 26% of their customer base. This surprises me that Vonage didn't meet the mark, it also surprises me that the FCC might have to be involved.

        It doesn't surprise me however that some A-C asswipe would troll o
        • Re:RTFC... Jackass (Score:3, Informative)

          by shawb ( 16347 )
          According to Vonage, they have the capability it's just that the telephone companies that control the E911 services aren't holding up their end of the deal in some markets. My guess is it doesn't really matter much what hardware you have so much as where you live.
      • Rememebr the good old days before electronic BigBrotherism became the national religion? Back then, freindly PEOPLE woudl ask PEOPLE for information verbally and write it down on PAPER with a Pencil. I am sure if someone digs in the back drawer they can locate these technological has-been and re-learn their use. They even work with an Indian accent too!
    • indeed (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kebes ( 861706 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:17PM (#14143022) Journal
      Vonage told me I had 911 dialing a long time ago. I just checked my email records, and they sent me a confirmation eight months ago, on March 30, 2005. They said that it was active and I'm assuming they are not making that up. However, I am in Canada, whereas obviously this article pertains to the US. So is it possible that in Canada the other companies were more compliant? ... or perhaps the legal pressure in Canada was more effective? Clearly Vonage is able (technologically) to deliver this service, so I tend to believe them when they say that it is the other telcos blocking their attempts.
    • by terrymr ( 316118 ) <terrymr&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:22PM (#14143047)
      The problem is that the number vonage routes your call to may or may not be the correct point for 911 calls to be handled in your town, they don't know because they are relying on published numbers for emergency dispatch. The baby-bells won't share information on where to send 911 calls for given addresses.
      • by mynametaken ( 412791 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @10:31PM (#14143735)
        I work for a company that provides E911 service for VoIP providers. I won't get into all the details but there are quite a few misconceptions so far on this board. The big problem with VoIP, other than the fact that we can't determine where you are (unlike wireless where at least we know your closest cell tower, if not your GPS or location via triangulation) is the totally nomadic nature of the device. Right now if you don't tell us where you are we have no clue. You could be in Australia. There are lots of technical proposals for this (DHCP sending Geopriv location when you get IP, etc.) but none are there yet.

        A basic primer: the E911 network is actually a separate network. The local Wireline End Office switch has dedicated trunks to a 911 tandem (aka Selective Router), which has dedicated trunks to a set of PSAPs (local 911 call centers). For wireless the wireless carriers simply ordered dedicated trunks from their local MSC (mobile switching center) to these selective routers. Obviously, Vonage does not have a local presence. They had to figure out a way to connect to all 650 selective routers nationwide from their data centers. Imagine now some local startup in Florida that has to connect redundant T-1s (the requirement of the ILECs like SBC in order to have E911 access) to all 650 selective routers. It ain't going to happen in 120 days.

        Wait, we're not done. The next issue is how to transmit the address of the subscriber to the PSAP real-time. The wireline E911 databases hold static addresses under the assumption that you never moved. This doesn't work when you can move your device. If I live in Texas but travel to Chicago for work (and go to the website to update my address) how do I get the address into the right system real-time? These databases are mostly managed by the ILECs and there are probably 50 or so out there, each totally standalone. The legacy 911 service order processes of the phone companies for order flowthrough typically take a few days.

        Fortunately, the wireless carriers figured out a solution: real-time steering from the local 911 database to a central datastore which transmits the location. For wireless the X,Y coordinates are transmitted. We piggy-backed off this standard but had to modify it to support civic locations (well, MSAG, but that's another essay). Of course, the ILECs (SBC, etc.) required new agreements for this. It also requires a new query key assigned for VoIP so everyone knows this is a VoIP call and the carrier to call in the event of a problem. This query key lets the local 911 database know which provider to query. This query key also gets around the constraint of the selective routers that only support local rate center NPA/NXXs. Basically, if you have a Chicago number in Dallas you can't get your call through. A p-ANI was developed for wireless to get around that.

        Here's the problem: the query keys must be assigned to each provider. These are called ESQKs, or p-ANIs in the industry. The FCC was supposed to name a numbering authority to distribute these keys to all the providers. The industry recommended Neustar as the temporary RNA. Until this is done noone can provide true E911. Well, the FCC has been silent on this so we have all been in a Catch-22 situation.
        • Some good stuff in the parent post.

          Basicly, they are requiring Vonage to be E911 but the industry isn't ready to provide E911 for VoIP but have already started plans to.

          Of course, do you think the Bell's really want aviable solution to this problem?
    • According to this [] they have 911 support (which sounds like it may not route as well as land line 911), but they don't have E911 [] service which "automatically associates the physical address with the calling party's telephone number." Notice the article posted on Slashdot is talking specifically about E911 service.
    • 911 is not the same as E911 (enhanced 911). Vonage is being required to support E911, not just 911.

      911 can mean just routing the call to a center based on your address. E911 requires that the center also receive your address and phone number.

    • OK... before I read another comment saying... "E911 associates your address and name with your phone number"

      The e-mail asks me to confirm my address and they know my name.

      I've used Vonage for years on their oldest hardware... and am not in the biggest city they serve... I would think that would put me in the 74% not being served correctly. Why is Vonage having a problem implementing this service? Doesn't it sound like that "26%" statistic just might be bullshit?
    • I'm not kidding. I have Vonage, and I filled out the form for the "911" service right away. I decided to test it one evening. When I dial 911 my call is routed to a general reception desk at my local police department, not the local 911 dispatch. At this point I really don't have 911 service.

      Dial 911 then quickly, but not hurriedly, explain that you just got new phone service and you're testing the line. Ask, "Is this the 911 dispatch center for yourtownnamehere."
    • Wait... I just got an e-mail on the 26th that says;

      We have completed 911 Dialing activation for your Vonage line...

      Now when you dial 911, Vonage will route your call to a general number at your nearest emergency response center, based on the address below:

      So what gives?

      What gives? Vonage is lying to you. (The funny part is that if Microsoft tried this, the geek community would be up in arms - but Vonage like Google seems to get a pass on all manner of malfeasance.)

      If you actually read the email clos

  • I have been.... (Score:2, Informative)

    using Vonage for nearly six months now and have had no trouble with their service. I do have some trouble with my phone getting caller ID and not ringing, but that is a case for another day.

    • I recently signed up for a Vonage account. It has very cool features, but the audio quality has been dismal to mediocre so far. I thought there might be a problem with my uplink speed, so I took the adapter and a phone to an ISP to see what 100Mbps might do. Voice quality was slightly better, but not much. Now I have noticed the delay between phone activation and dial-tone is so long, the auto-dialer on the phone dials most of the number before I get a dial tone. I'll probably cancel the account soon. I est

    • I've seen that occasionally. It usually has to do with poor internet service. Sometimes the CID wouldn't come through, and usually the call sucks at that point. Since I love my statistics, I graph almost everything, and can usually see poor throughput on the internet connection when that happens.

      I lived in a hotel (site work) for two months. I had a wireless bridge, making my AP talk to the hotel's wireless connection. I then had two machines and my VoIP set up. Their ser
  • by jest3r ( 458429 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:08PM (#14142955) has 911. You just have to tell them where your primary residence is. []

    • The problem with it is that it doesn't work too well for new developments. I just moved to a new house and for some reason their system doesnt like my new address.

      • Hell, I live in a townhouse at least 30 years old in a well populated college town, and I have tried typing my address in in a wide variety of ways and I can't get it to work.


      • So tell it you live just around the corner somewhere it does like, and then tell the 911 operator where you really are when you call.

        Hacky workaround, yes - but better than nothing.

        (wavy lines) cue story about Australia cab company that said "we have your number so we already have your address - do you have 4 or less people and want to leave now - ok, good - see you soon" with their stupid automated system, then proceeded to send the cab to the address that used to have that number MORE THAN A YEAR AGO. Fu
    • The problem is that they cannot always find you. I have been a subsscriber for over 3 months and they still haven't figure out where I live. As such, their claim that 100% of their customers has 911 service is a lie.
    • has 911. You just have to tell them where your primary residence is.
      That's not E911 - which is what the FCC is requiring. E911 provides the 911 call center with your current location - If I call 911 on my cell phone while standing in the mall food court, the E911 system will give the mall's adress, not my primary residence. Ditto for the local park, Burger King, my best friends house, the movie theatre, etc... etc...
  • by Orrin Bloquy ( 898571 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:12PM (#14142981) Journal
    ...Still can't find the 'eleven' key on my keypad.
  • Works for me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by teutonic_leech ( 596265 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:14PM (#14143005)
    I also got a letter on the 26th stating that I had 911 enabled (only took them 1/2 year). Well, anyone NOT getting 911 - I'm sure it's not Vonage's problem and IF the FCC uses this to shut them down (or prevent them from signing up anyone new) then I think that the PacBells have a friend or two at the FCC. Now, wouldn't that be shocking ;-)

    Just another example how the encumbants are trying to thwart the growth of a superior business model - same old - we should all consider these types of issues next time elections are being held. Oh wait - Dibold is now electing our administrations and officials - never mind...
  • Simple Database? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ( 217798 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:18PM (#14143027) Homepage
    I am no expert on the 911 system, but I am assuming that local PSAPs have local telephone numbers that they could be called at instead of through 911. Couldn't Vonage just create a little database linking zip codes to the appropriate PSAPs number and bypass the bastards holding them up? This would be incredibly simple to do ... as long as they could get the phone numbers for all the PSAPs. []

    • There's the rub..
      The local ILECs generally control and zealously gaurd those phone numbers, they are not given out to anyone.
      • Easy way for them to find out what those numbers are, even in the presence of a relatively antagonistic Baby Bell. Call 911, hang up, wait for the callback, apologize for the mistake, then write down the number from the Caller ID. Nice thing is, the numbers probably roll over in a pool, so as long as the number you get back isn't near the end of the chain, you probably have a fairly reliable way to forward calls to 911.

        Oh, but that would be illegal....

        *rolls eyes*

        • Many municipalities require police to respond to every 911 call, as a callback with a response of "I'm sorry, wrong number" could mean the phone was wrestled from the hands of the person living there. If a company were to do this, they'd get into big trouble.
    • For the most part, that's what VoIP providers do. However, there are some issues with this system, the one of which is that some areas have more than one local phone number associated with the 911 service, usually based on the local schedule of the PSAP personnel. For example, 911 might connect to one number during the day and another at night. Normally, 911 calls are routed at the local switch, and so these rules can be programmed on a case-by-case basic, but with VoIP it's difficult to compile a complete
    • The National Emergency Number Association [] rejected that approach. Here's their analysis (.doc format). [] The major problems are 1) calls forwarded in this way don't appear at the Public Safety Answering Point with useful location or caller ID information, 2) congestion is badly handled, 3) aiming multiple providers at the same group of numbers means that a routing error at one provider impacts 911 calls via other providers, 4) denial of service attacks become easy, and 5) components with lower reliability re
  • by technoviper ( 595945 ) <technoviperx@yaho o . com> on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:22PM (#14143045)
    From Vonage's own site []
    • by gpw213 ( 691600 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:53PM (#14143259)
      Did you actually read the page you linked?

      The page states that they have 911 service, but:

      When the center receives your call, the operator will not have your address and may not have your phone number on hand, so you must provide that information in order to get help.

      Then lower down, it talks about "E911 coming soon", which is what the orginal article was talking about.

  • With all the recent uproar surrounding this issue, I have to wonder why the cell providers aren't required to do this?

    I am a Vonage subscriber. It was stated quite clearly from day on, and I am an early adopter, that 911 is handled differently and that I had to keep my physical address information updated on the Vonage dashboard to help ensure timely response by emergency services. I have yet had the need to test this though.

    However, my cell phone provider never said anything, at least not clearly, and the one time I had to call 911, I went through a whole little dance giving my physical address to the operator and then wait to be transfered to a local 911 response center.

    So, what's the difference?
    • However, my cell phone provider never said anything, at least not clearly, and the one time I had to call 911, I went through a whole little dance giving my physical address to the operator and then wait to be transfered to a local 911 response center.

      That's weird. My assumption was, when you dial 911 from a cell phone, whichever cell you're in at the time determines which 911 center the call will be routed to - so if I'm at home and dial 911, the call will be routed to my local 911 response center (about a block and a half from me, actually), but if I go somewhere else and dial 911, the call will be routed to whatever 911 response center is appropriate for that location, because that's where the cell tower is.

      With cell phones, they know where all the towers are and can set up 911 appropriately. With VOIP, they have no way to know where you're physically connecting from, so they have to base it off your billing address, which may be unhelpful if you're not at home.
    • Cell phone providers are now required to support E911. To wit:

      The wireless E911 program is divided into two parts - Phase I and Phase II. Phase I requires carriers, upon appropriate request by a local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), to report the telephone number of a wireless 911 caller and the location of the antenna that received the call. Phase II requires wireless carriers to provide far more precise location information, within 50 to 300 meters in most cases.

      The deployment of E911 requires the development of new technologies and upgrades to local 911 PSAPs, as well as coordination among public safety agencies, wireless carriers, technology vendors, equipment manufacturers, and local wireline carriers. The FCC established a four-year rollout schedule for Phase II, beginning October 1, 2001 and to be completed by December 31, 2005.

      (Source: [])

      In order to implement E911, GPS is necessary. In some areas you can get quite excellent pinpointing from cell triangulation, but not in others, due to terrain features, buildings, and other sources of interference. Thus, it will be impossible to purchase a cellular phone without GPS in the US starting January 1. Even phones which do not provide GPS functionality to the user will contain GPS! All of them.

      (Disclaimer: "The FCC has granted various limited waivers of the Phase II rules to wireless carriers, subject to revised deployment schedules and quarterly reporting requirements.") - see the linked page above.

    • Any new phone sold in the past 2-3 years has been required to be E911-capable. (Yes, to have proper E911 support, changes needed to be made to the phone. Specifically, GPS receivers were added to all cell phones sold after a certain date. Note that the receivers in question cannot obtain a location fix by themselves, they send the pseudorange data they obtain to the tower for processing into a navigation fix.)

      I believe the specific E911 requirement for cell phones was positioning to within 100 meters or
    • So, what's the difference?

      Simple. The cell phone providers own their own congressmen and women....


    • With all the recent uproar surrounding this issue, I have to wonder why the cell providers aren't required to do this?

      I am a Vonage subscriber. It was stated quite clearly from day on, and I am an early adopter, that 911 is handled differently and that I had to keep my physical address information updated on the Vonage dashboard to help ensure timely response by emergency services. I have yet had the need to test this though.

      However, my cell phone provider never said anything, at least not clearly, and the
  • Worked for me... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 222 ( 551054 ) <> on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:23PM (#14143053) Homepage
    As a Vonage user, I've wondered what kind of problems I might run into, but last week, I began to feel anxious and my heart began to pound / chest pains... I asked a friend to call 911.

    There was a 1-2 second delay and I could tell that my friend had been transfered, but within minutes medics were at my house. I'm not sure what kind of system they use, but here in St Louis it works.

    On a lighter note, the medics didn't find anything wrong with me, and I've chalked it up to stress / coffee ;).
  • What I want to know is how they are implementing this under the guise of E911. "E911" means different things with landlines than it does with, say, cell phones. So how are they meeting the threshold of "E911" service? These devices are portable; what happens if it is moved down the street? Taken on a trip? Taken to the office? What guarantees the E911 capability stays in effect? I'm not saying the VoIP companies should be able to perform miracles; in fact, I think too much was being asked of them as it was.
  • by Py to the Wiz ( 905662 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @08:26PM (#14143082)
    As I see it, one of the problems with this is simply determining where "phone" services begin and end. For example, while Vonage or Lingo may be a real 'phone replacement' and for 99.9% of users should be able to do 911 service, how about Skype? If you only use Skypeout and you only use it via a headset on a laptop, is that VoIP? It certainly *is* "Voice over IP", but does that make it a phone service that should need 911 service?

    If they start classifying things like Skype as a voice telecommunications service and requiring 911 calls to function, then what's next? 911 requirements for Teamspeak?

    Maybe a VoIP "phone" is one which can place a call which eventually gets circuit switched on one end, even if 99% of the transit is packet switched.

    It seems to me that what really needs to happen is a revamping of the 911 system to deal with the portability of numbers. You want 911? Fine, go somewhere and configure your address any time you move the phone around. When you dial 911, it transmits your entered address. Possibly the hardware/software acting as your phone also monitors the MAC address of its default gateway after you change the address associated; if the MAC address changes but the address has not, a warning goes out to emergency services that notes that there is reason to believe the address may not be completely reliable (and thus, hopefully an emergency operator can confirm it with you when you call).

    Lots of little things rely on the phone network. My house alarm, for example, will freak out completely if I cut my phone service entirely, because it uses the phone line to keep in touch with the alarm monitoring service.
    • Since providers of internet based phone service have to adapt 911 into their business plans ... it seems only fair that 911 should do the same and setup alternate ways of contacting 911 such as:

      * Setting up the keyword 911 on all major ISPs that support various keyword schemes

      * Setting up IM accounts under the name/number 911 on all the major IM providers

      * Establishing a new TLD called 911 - that way one would only have to type in 911 (no extension needed) in their web browser; browsers would auto-map 911 e
  • So I spend most of my Skype time "on the road" (as in, coffeeshops). How's a 911 dispatcher ever going to find me? Why would I expect one to without providing additional information? There's no infrastructure for tracing the location of IPs/MACs (and thank God for that).

    If your IP phone is nailed to a wall, sure, this makes sense.

    Otherwise, what, I have to have a GPS card plugged into my laptop and make all my calls outdoors?
    • For the last time, stop bringing up MACs. There's no reliable way to track MAC addresses over the 'net, even encoding it in your packets somewhere that will be passed over a Layer 3 network, because you can rewrite packets. Forget about MACs, they're just not even a factor except on an ethernetwork.

      Well, it's probably not the last time, but anyway.

    • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:33PM (#14143494)
      So I spend most of my Skype time "on the road" (as in, coffeeshops). How's a 911 dispatcher ever going to find me?

      I really wouldn't worry about that scenario. If I've learned anything in life, it's that collapsing in public draws a big crowd.

  • Speakeasy's VOIP service not only has 911, but it goes directly to my local police department, with complete information. Why can't Vonage do this?!
    • Re:Speakeasy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Andy Dodd ( 701 )
      Most likely because unlike Vonage, Speakeasy's VOIP is basically tied to their DSL service.

      Since DSL is offered over the copper phone lines, Speakeasy probably already has numerous agreements in place with local telcos regarding information about the telephone infrastructure.
  • 933 (Score:2, Informative)

    by tscheez ( 71929 )
    From an email I got 2 weeks ago
    "We've made it easy for you to check your 911 coverage. If you dial 933 from your Vonage phone, TCS's VoIP Verify service will inform you how your emergency calls will be routed and what information you should be prepared to provide to the emergency services operator."
  • by Max Nugget ( 581772 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:00PM (#14143304)
    I'm far from an expert on the 911 system, but I do feel pretty safe in asserting one particular detail: 911 call centers were built and are operated by the public, using local/state/federal tax dollars.

    Now as I understand it, it varies from pole-to-pole as to who owns the telephone poles -- some are owned by the city, some by the electric company, some the telcos, cable company, etc.

    However, the city, using public funding, built the 911 infrastructure, at great expense to the taxpayers. In many cities, 911 calls are routed through a separate circuit, and telco companies are required to route 911 calls even if a phone line is not in service. However, if a line is simply dead, I imagine this doesn't apply. Obviously most people at the time when 911 was first rolled out did not foresee the telcos competing for phone service with Internet/cable/etc, so there was little hesitation in making the last-mile of the 911 infrastructure dependent on the telco infrastructure.

    Phone lines, though, are often the one thing that works when power/cable/Internet go down (which is often, and frequently related to and thus coinciding with the particular emergency you're calling about!). In the interest of the public good, an arrangement allowing 911 calls to be made through the existing phone lines ought to be in-place, if it is not already. Yes, VOIP 911 should be implemented as well, but at the end of the day putting the public in a situation where they have to rely on a working power/cable/internet connection to get an emergency operator is dangerous. In fact VOIP-based 911 may actually make things worse, providing a false sense of security. How many callers are going to keep a regular phone hooked up to their POTS line just as a backup for 911? And how much extra time is going to be wasted when they first try 911 on their VOIP line, discover it's dead, then race over to their nearest POTS "backup" phone, which is most likely nowhere near where the victim they're calling for is!

    911 was built from the ground up to be extremely reliable, because a service like 911 has to be reliable. Power/cable/internet are very unreliable and have a tendency to be down at exactly the time a 911 call needs to be made.

    There are other ways to approach this problem. Hopefully someone will do so, because, like I said, this sounds like a dangerous situation, and getting Vonage to route 911 calls isn't going to fix these reliability problems.
    • Very true. 911 should be something that should be based on the assumption that it needs to be reliable. Eventually everythign will go over IP, thus in the long run E911 for VoIP will be reliable because the internet infustructure will be reliable. But until then, VoIP providers that advertise their services as a land line replacement such as vonage should provide some sort of backup 911.

      Cell networks IIRC are required to route 911 calls nomatter whether the phone is activated on the network or not. VoIP
    • In fact VOIP-based 911 may actually make things worse, providing a false sense of security. How many callers are going to keep a regular phone hooked up to their POTS line just as a backup for 911?

      Why not have a phone jack on the VoIP adapter and require it to be physically connected to a phone line? I'd imagine that most people who get VoIP and drop their phone service still have the physical jacks and the physical connections to the network. I'm pretty sure phone companies are required to provide 911 s
  • by bumptehjambox ( 886036 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2005 @09:13PM (#14143383)
    911's a joke!
  • The problem with location identification is that we are focusing at the wrong location. ISPs should be the ones responsible for giving general locations to the VOIP provider. The VOIP provider doesn't know where the ISPs networks are, and making the VOIP provider responsible for this is going to fail miserably.

    Again, yet another wonderful ideal from the morons in charge.

The moon is a planet just like the Earth, only it is even deader.