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Vonage 911 Deadline Passed

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the competition-never-hinders-progress dept.

Communications 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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315 comments

Profit? (2, Interesting)

squidguy (846256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142911)

Sounds like a good deal for the rest of the VOIP providers?

Re:Profit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14142917)

Vonage rocks.

Re:Profit? (1)

alex4u2nv (869827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142926)

They to would also be blocked, since they also are unable to provide proper 911 service. I think the competitors who the article refers to, are the POTS owners

Re:Profit? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143302)

Most of the pots owners are/have moved to DSL with their own flavor of voip(and some are adding iptv). But I would also guess that comcast will be blocking vonage and others shortly. Not so long ago, Qwest promised to not block other any services, while comcast specifically would not promise to NOT block anything, not even voip or other web sites.

MOD THE TROLL DOWN!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14142915)

MOD THE TROLL DOWN!!!

hmm (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14142919)

but that it still was waiting for cooperation from competitors that control the 911 network."

hmm maybe they have a vested interest in NOT providing vonage that access?

gd corrupt system

Re:hmm (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143009)


>hmm maybe they have a vested interest in NOT providing vonage that access?

The article is short on details. Depending on how "uncooperative" they are being, and in what ways, they might find themselves in trouble, since Vonage and the FCC could claim that they are interfering with someone's effort to comply with lawful orders. Obstruction of justice perhaps, that sort of thing?

If Vonage is sandbagging because they aren't getting 911 to POTS *for free* that's another matter entirely.

Thank you Ma Bell (2, Funny)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142920)

'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 (4, Insightful)

Punboy (737239) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142925)

Shouldn't the uncooperative companies be fined/sued? After all, they were supposed to cooperate and they didn't.

Re:Fines (3, Insightful)

Mundocani (99058) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (3, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143399)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143124)

Shouldn't the uncooperative companies be fined/sued? After all, they were supposed to cooperate and they didn't.

Well, if it is true, then Vonage certainly ought to sue them. But other VOIP providers have managed to coordinate 911 service with these same companies, so it's certainly not clear if they really are being uncooperative.

Re:Fines (5, Insightful)

XorNand (517466) | more than 8 years ago | (#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?

Re:Fines (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143436)


    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 every IP holder give a physical address to where the IP is being used at.. That would mean a central database for all IP usage. No, such a thing doesn't exist. I have several /24's, in several different places. I'm playing with setting up a VPN server in each location, so any of our trusted users (i.e., me) can set up their laptop or PC, and connect to the closest VPN server. Since I, as the SysAdmin of a small company, would need to report the physical address of each user as they connect. Not freakin' likely. On top of that, if say I, as the mobile user, decided to do something bad, I would obviously report a wrong address.

Gee, I'm stunned. Not. (1)

Kid Zero (4866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142929)

Profit. Collusion to kill the VOIP bandwagon, pure and simple.

Also: their Customer Service absolutely stinks.

Re:Gee, I'm stunned. Not. (1)

tbuckner (861471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143280)

That's exactly what I thought 90 days ago, the minute I heard about the 911 deadline. 1: Buy the regulators, regulate the competition out of existence. 2: Raise rates endlessly on captive customers. 3: Profit!

Packet8 (2, Interesting)

ECXStar (533351) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142931)

I subscribe to Packet8 and they rolled it out today. Wonder what's keeping Vonage and others from getting this rolled out?

Re:Packet8 (2, Interesting)

Bourbonium (454366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143237)

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 was mandated will now have to pay the new $1.99 fee just like the rest of us. It was offered to all Packet8 customers, but apparently very few people were bothering to sign up for it since, well, I thought that's what cell phones were for.

Wait... I just got an e-mail on the 26th that says (5, Informative)

DaedalusLogic (449896) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 https://secure.vonage.com/vonage-web/features/inde x.htm [vonage.com] 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 http://www.vonage.com./ [www.vonage.com] 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?

Re:Wait... I just got an e-mail on the 26th that s (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14142987)

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 (2, Informative)

DaedalusLogic (449896) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143084)

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 on my contribution of a piece of information that illustrates my experience as an actual customer.

Re:RTFC... Jackass (1)

Narkov (576249) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143299)

No YOU RTFA. You are ONLY being routed to the local 911 operator based on your address. You are NOT having your address presented to the operator. There is a VERY big difference.

Comment retraction in 3....2....1....

Re:RTFC... Jackass (2, Informative)

shawb (16347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143339)

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.

indeed (3, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143022)

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.

Re:indeed (0)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143119)

Vonage told me I had 911 dialing a long time ago. [...] hey said that it was active and I'm assuming they are not making that up.

afaik it should be very easy to check. Just call 911 and tell them that you just want to verify that your 911 actually works. Lots of people are doing that, and the 911 staff is very understanding in that aspect.

Re:indeed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143216)

Nice troll. In my state it's not a trivial deal to simply call 911 to see if it's working. By state law, if you call 911 the police must respond with a trip to your house. They must enter your house and do a physical inspection to make sure everything is A-OK for every call to 911 regardless of the reason.

So in AK, if you follow the parents advice, expect a visit from a very unhappy police officer.

Re:Wait... I just got an e-mail on the 26th that s (4, Interesting)

terrymr (316118) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Wait... I just got an e-mail on the 26th that s (1)

Paul Slocum (598127) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143118)

According to this [www.vonage.com] they have 911 support (which sounds like it may not route as well as land line 911), but they don't have E911 [wikipedia.org] 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.

Re:Wait... I just got an e-mail on the 26th that s (2, Informative)

DeepRedux (601768) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143136)

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.

Re:Wait... I just got an e-mail on the 26th that s (1)

DaedalusLogic (449896) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143175)

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?

Test it! (1)

bradleyland (798918) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143380)

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."

I have been.... (2, Informative)

Dayze!Confused (717774) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142947)

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.

Re:I have been.... (2)

Feminist-Mom (816033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143017)

I've been thinking of getting it. What kind of phones can you use ? You generally find it reliable ? What do you pay ?

Re:I have been.... (1)

Jerry Rivers (881171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143292)

My service is as realiable as my Comcast cable connection. Which is to say it's about 98% reliable. Vonage has never once gone down in the year I have had it. I have excellent quality sound -- better than my POTS was I might add -- and all the features have worked very well. I particularly love the automatic forwarding to my cell phone so I only ever have to give out one number.

I pay $16.95 a month. My old phone service was $55 a month for the same features.

I simply LOVE it.

Vonage sucks so far (1)

Strudelkugel (594414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143115)


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 estimate the successful calls I have made so far cost about $10/minute, given the startup fees and disconnect fees.

Too bad, I really liked a lot of the features they offer.

Re:Vonage sucks so far (1)

Trigulus (781481) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143279)

Did you make sure your bandwidth settings were set to the highest value? This can be set on the Vonage website and I last I looked there were 3 choices. I have seen new lines default to the lowest setting which is total crap. I have 3 lines on a cable modem connection and have never had call quality issues. I have had just about every other issue with ringing and connect delays, voicemail, caller id, etc. Most of the time you pick up and say Hello and the other person doesnt hear anything cause the call has not properly connected yet. But it saves me hundreds/month and the minor issues I have learned to live with.

they have it in Canada (2, Informative)

jest3r (458429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142955)

Vonage.ca has 911. You just have to tell them where your primary residence is.

http://www.vonage.ca/features.php?feature=911 [vonage.ca]

Re:they have it in Canada (1)

loconet (415875) | more than 8 years ago | (#14142972)

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.

Re:they have it in Canada (1)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143067)

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.

--
Evan

Re:they have it in Canada (1)

Bronster (13157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143073)

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. Fuckers. (/wavy lines)

911 (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14142973)

911 is a Joke

Hit me
Going, going, gone
Now I dialed 911 a long time ago
Don't you see how late they're reactin'
They only come and they come when they wanna
So get the morgue embalm the goner
They don't care 'cause they stay paid anyway
They teach ya like an ace they can't be betrayed
I know you stumble with no use people
If your life is on the line they you're dead today
Late comings with the late comin' stretcher
That's a body bag in disguise y'all betcha
I call 'em body snatchers quick they come to fetch ya?
With an autopsy ambulance just to dissect ya
They are the kings 'cause they swing amputation
Lose your arms, your legs to them it's compilation
I can prove it to you watch the rotation
It all adds up to a funky situation
So get up get, get get down
911 is a joke in yo town
Get up, get, get, get down
Late 911 wears the late crown

911 is a joke

Everyday they don't never come correct
You can ask my man right here with the broken neck
He's a witness to the job never bein' done
He would've been in full in 8 9-11
Was a joke 'cause they always jokin'
They the token to your life when it's croakin'
They need to be in a pawn shop on a
911 is a joke we don't want 'em
I call a cab 'cause a cab will come quicker
The doctors huddle up and call a flea flicker
The reason that I say that 'cause they
Flick you off like fleas
They be laughin' at ya while you're crawlin' on your knees
And to the strength so go the length
Thinkin' you are first when you really are tenth
You better wake up and smell the real flavor
Cause 911 is a fake life saver

So get up, get, get get down
911 is a joke in yo town
Get up, get, get, get down
Late 911 wears the late crown

Ow, ow 911 is a joke

Re:911 (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143198)

Jeez, what you post as AC for? I would of loved to mod that up up up! Its better than 90% of the rubbish we get on here...

unless you stole it?

Works for me (3, Interesting)

teutonic_leech (596265) | more than 8 years ago | (#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? (3, Interesting)

eggbert.net (217798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143027)

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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9-1-1 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Simple Database? (1)

pavera (320634) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143093)

There's the rub..
The local ILECs generally control and zealously gaurd those phone numbers, they are not given out to anyone.

Re:Simple Database? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143247)

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*

Re:Simple Database? (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143422)

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.

Re:Simple Database? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143354)

Umm......actually, I have the number for my local PSAP on the website of the county I live in. The PSAP actually GIVES this number out to help with the call volume. Got an emergency? Call 911. If it's something you need police/fire/medical assistance with, but it can wait, call XXX-XXXX. If you call that number, but they think it requires an actual code 3 response, they will still respond just as if you had called 911. Granted, this isn't the best solution, but this is part of the reason I haven't switched to VOIP yet. Also, if you have VOIP, and don't feel secure with the 911 system through it, keep an old phone plugged into the wall jack, even if you don't have local phone service anymore, they still have to allow you to make a 911 call through the system, just like cell carriers.

Re:Simple Database? (2, Insightful)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143128)

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 list of PSAP numbers and the routing rules that they correspond to.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, however, the issue here is the current address of the caller is not readily available to VoIP providers. For example, a VoIP customer could sign up in one area, providing an address for 911 service. Later that customer could move to a new area with a completely different 911 service. As far as the VoIP provider is concerned, nothing has changed. The customer can still make calls normally. However, if the customer tries to call 911, the call would be routed to the wrong call center.

Cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143033)

How about making 911 reliable for cell phone customers first? Being ON HOLD for 10 minutes after calling 911 is not fun.

Maybe it's just as well... (0, Flamebait)

kunwon1 (795332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143043)

...After reading hundreds upon hundreds of horror stories about Vonage's customer service at places like VOIP-Forums [tmcnet.com], I decided that I wasn't quite ready to take the plunge. I'm sure I'm not alone. Everyone's blaming the FCC for trying to shut down Vonage and whatnot, has nobody considered that maybe it's just not all that great a company?

Editors have never heard of fact checking (3, Informative)

technoviper (595945) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143045)

From Vonage's own site
http://www.vonage.com./features.php?feature=911 [www.vonage.com]

Re:Editors have never heard of fact checking (4, Informative)

gpw213 (691600) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this??? (4, Interesting)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143052)

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?

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (3, Interesting)

Phroggy (441) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143116)

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.

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143306)

With VOIP, they have no way to know where you're physically connecting from

Bullshit. Lookup geolocation by ip [google.com].

Vonage just didn't get around to it in time.

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (1)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143411)

Cell triangulation can be hard in some areas.

My point is more the the fact of why do we not hear about this side of it? The news is inundated with VoIP E911 coverage.

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143155)

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: http://www.fcc.gov/911/enhanced/ [fcc.gov])

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.

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (1)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143385)

And yet there's no way to just look at your current GPS location. They charge extra for that.

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (1)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143390)

My point is more the the fact of why do we not hear about this side of it? The news is inundated with VoIP E911 coverage.

As to the cell phones, old cell phones that do not have GPS are functional for 911 only. These phones are often times distributed by non-profits, for example to battered women's shelters. Reliance on GPS is not going to help them, and as they are not an active account, all they will have to go on is the cell tower triagulation methods.

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (3, Informative)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143437)

"In order to implement E911, GPS is necessary."

Not the case. While CDMA and iDEN phones do need GPS to provide reliable triangulation, GSM triangulation systems exist that provide position with sufficent accuracy to meet E911 requirements:

http://www.trueposition.com/news_07.23.03_tmobile. php [trueposition.com]

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (1)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143447)

What about older cell phones that do not have GPS are functional for 911 only. These phones are often times distributed by non-profits, for example to battered women's shelters. Reliance on GPS is not going to help them, and as they are not an active account, all they will have to go on is the cell tower triagulation methods.

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143176)

The little dance you went through is probably due to the fact that you could be anywhere (not home). So they have to determine where to send the paramedics. I thought all phones had GPS for this reason though?

Plus cell phones, even deactivated ones, are still required to be able to be used for 911 purposes afaik.

Buy a new phone (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143238)

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 100 feet, I can't recall which.

Re:Buy a new phone (1)

Lord Jester (88423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143423)

Old cell phones that do not have GPS are functional for 911 only. These phones are often times distributed by non-profits, for example to battered women's shelters. Reliance on GPS is not going to help them, and as they are not an active account, all they will have to go on is the cell tower triagulation methods.

Re:Shouldn't the cell phone companies provide this (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143267)

So, what's the difference?

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

*sigh*

Worked for me... (5, Interesting)

222 (551054) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143053)

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 ;).

Re:Worked for me... (5, Funny)

Bodero (136806) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143164)

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

Wow, you were that worried about it?

Just kidding, glad you're OK.

How can this work? What is the compromise? (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143059)

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. If the E911 information is valid for the device at a particular location, how is it guaranteed to stay valid?

Re:How can this work? What is the compromise? (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143234)

What I'm wondering is why they don't use something like an IP address geographical locator [geobytes.com] in order to determine an approximate location. Yes, technically you could route your call through a tunnel, but 99% of people aren't going to be hiding their true IP address when they're making a phone call. That would work fine for E911 with a decently small margin of error.

Re:How can this work? What is the compromise? (1)

Trebonius (29177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143406)

Well, that service didn't even get my state right, let alone city, street, and address. And ISPs had better not making my exact address publicly available based on my IP.

Good for the competition (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143066)

Thankfully I own stock in EGHT. Packet 8 had a leg up on the competition in this matter since they offered E911 service before the mandate from the FCC for an extra charge.

Re:Good for the competition (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143190)

Even Phase II of E911 is not mandated until 12/31/2005 and some/many carriers have waivers allowing them to extend past this deadline... at least for the wireless providers.

But where do you draw the line? (5, Interesting)

Py to the Wiz (905662) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:But where do you draw the line? (1)

neovoxx (818095) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143371)

TFA says that the E911 requirement only applies to services which use/terminate on the public switched telephone network.

Calling on the road (2, Insightful)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143091)

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?

Re:Calling on the road (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143174)

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.

Ep? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143097)

but now they're are havinvg trouble interest in having

Speakeasy (1)

dacarr (562277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143121)

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 (2, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143252)

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.

Why can't vonyage implement it autonomously? (1)

c0d3r (156687) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143123)

Why can't they just simply ask users to enter their location, and map it to a local emergency number from some database? Do they not have long phone number equivalents to 911? Does this database exist? Specifically what information do they need from the "911 controllers"?

Re:Why can't vonyage implement it autonomously? (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143193)

"Why can't they just simply ask users to enter their location, and map it to a local emergency number from some database? Do they not have long phone number equivalents to 911? Does this database exist? Specifically what information do they need from the "911 controllers"?"

That's exactly what they're doing now.

Re:Why can't vonyage implement it autonomously? (1)

pavera (320634) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143197)

They need access to that database.
Unfortunately the ILECs (SBC, Qwest, Verizon, et al) charge alot of money to access that database. I helped setup a CLEC, the most costly thing we did was get or PSAP/MSAG database connection, it was half of the cost per line that we charged ($25/line was what we charge our customers, $12.50 of that went directly to Qwest to access the e911 database).
Needless to say, Vonage cannot afford that.

Tried to kill Vonage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143140)

What they did was try to use the FCC to shutdown Vonage using the fear of not being able to dial 911 as the reason. This was not the case, by the way, if you called 911 you would get a local 911 center but they would have to ask you for the exact location and phone number. The FCC ordered them to make the address information exact and to send the phone number to the correct 911 dispatch center for that address aka E911 compliance. What they thought would happen is that Vonage would either be unwilling are unable to afford to comply. Well Vonage managed to comply, but when they asked to connect their system to the E911 system the phone companies had a real problem. It is not just that they wanted to drag their feet. They had gotten the FCC to say that if Vonage did not fully support E911 they would be shutdown, what they failed to think about is that they themselves do not fully support the E911 system, so in many places Vonage's system would know where the caller is but there is no working E911 system for them to connect to. Something that, they had kept neatly hidden from most people. They were also trying to get the FCC to require that Vonage phones not need to have the user register where they are using the phone for E911. This might be done but it would eliminate the ability to have roaming phones, be very costly, and of course irritate privacy advocates. By using the system Vonage does it avoids the loss of roaming and privacy issue, but still complies at least to the level they could sue the FCC over and that most people would find palatable. The phone companies simply did not anticipate how Vonage would comply and that they themselves could not meet the same standard they put on Vonage. I hope the FCC starts threating to close down ATT. I also think the did not realize just how much several other companies including in many cases themselves would want to use VOIP. Companies like Google with the ability to crush them.

How to call the police, even in the ghetto ... (0, Flamebait)

ta ma de (851887) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143144)

When you call 911, tell them, "this guy just walked-up and capped a police officer, shot 'em in da head." You will recieve instantaneous service no matter where you are. Do make sure it is a real emergency.

933 (3, Informative)

tscheez (71929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14143183)

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."

Correct me if I'm wrong... (3, Interesting)

Max Nugget (581772) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Reliable service? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14143439)

It seems to me that Vonage cannot provide a reliable 911 service due to the fact that it rely's on your internet connection, so if the power goes out or your ISP goes down, then your screwed. At least with the cable company in my area, they offer a seperate modem seperate from their internet traffic, with a battery backup, and the cable co's equipment in the area also has a battery backup. This should be the only acceptable format for voip (redundancy), and I can see where the telco's are coming from, sure their looking out for their business, but maybe they just don't want to see people in trouble from not being able to call 911?

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