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VoIP E911 Emergency Calls

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VoIP and Emergency E911 Calls

Although there are some definite advantages to using your Internet connection as your phone line, there are some disadvantage as well. Chief among these is the limited access to emergency services, which VoIP services are exempt from needing to utilize.

There are several cases pending against Vonage in which a person was unable to get through to an emergency service. In Texas, on February 2, intruders broke into the home of the John family. Peter and his wife Sosamma were shot, and their daughter Joyce tried to call 911 to no avail. Joyce ended up running next door and calling an ambulance through a normal land-line. Fortunately, the family survived to sue Vonage.

The family, as others, is suing because they believe that Vonage is using deceptive practices to sign on customers. In essence, they believe that Vonage knowingly makes it apparent that it is able to contact emergency services via 911 when that is not in fact the case.  For example, Vonage asks for a subscriberís address specifically for 911 services.

The charges are hardly unique. Vonage also has cases pending in other states, such as Rhode Island and Connecticut. However, Vonage has noted that working with the local phone systems in order to secure emergency services has been a problem. The Rhode Island case is notable because Rhode Island requires the service to get its own license in order to work with the local phone system. Without that license, phone service providers cannot utilize 911 services, and the license is difficult to obtain. Vonage has asked politicians to help it in trying to access such services.

Also, Vonage states twice during the application process that 911 services may not be available in most areas. By doing so, Vonage hoped to inform consumers that emergency services would not be accessible via their phones, even while asking that they provide their address for same. Also, even when emergency services are available, there is a forty-eight hour wait until services are available, creating its own obvious issues (such as an emergency during that period).

However, Vonage has brokered a deal with Verizon in order to provide E911 (enhanced 911) services. This should allows Vonage to offer emergency services, at least to a greater area. This is important because Voice over IP providers use a local broadband connection in order to access the phone lines, providing telephone service. Only 50% of all users have an actual address listed, as users take advantage of the mobility that VoIP offers; unlike landline systems, a VoIP system can be used and accessed anywhere there is a broadband connection.

An E911 service would allow subscribers to use emergency services based on their given address. However, the mobility offered by VoIP throws another loop in the issue, as a user can be in a location other than his registered location. Besides possibly directing the services to an incorrect address, there is the potential issue that a person could be calling from an area where E911 services donít exist.

Vonage, as well as many other VoIP providers, are currently trying to find solutions to all of these problems. Although legislation is going to be required in some cases, such as the Rhode Island situation, and the services are going to need to adapt to the possibility of multiple locations, may be a while in coming. However, a complete solution may be a while in coming. Until then, make sure that if you are interested in a VoIP provider, check over the information provided carefully to see if you are in an area that has E911 service.

Apps Communications offers E911 with all VoIP services.

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