RE: Vonage SUED over not clearly informing customers re 911 service lacking

"Your Call Will Go To A General Access Line at the Public Safety
Point (PSAP). This is different from the 911 Emergency Response Center
traditional 911 calls go."

In talking with my local PSAP about VoIP services and this particular
issue, they (PSAPs collectively) are fairly displeased with Vonage-like
services and how it introduces delay into their process which is all
about time sensitive information. With the advances in E911, cell phone
location services, etc. which all increased the speed of identifying
caller location and identity, residential VoIP services have set things
back a fair amount.

The "General Access" line that Vonage's text mentions means different
things to different PSAPs and some (mine anyway) prioritize calls coming
in on this line to the lowest queue and with some areas it may not even
be answered outside of core operating hours or during high-call periods.

I'm not saying (nor do I hope the PSAPs are either) that Vonage should
cease and desist service because of the 911 issues, rather greater
partnership needs to be initiated to insure that VoIP service and POTS
have the same priority for 911 and that all possible information is
transmitted in a timely manner for 911 dispatchers to get the right
services to you as fast as possible.

I read on a Vonage customer forum about "testing" your 911 service with
them, I don't know that I'd advocate that as the PSAPs will likely be
ticked. But again, it emphasizes a point about collaboration between
Vonage and the areas it supports to insure customer safety.

If you are a Vonage customer, I'd urge you to verify your 911 info with
them. Sure you'll hopefully never need the service, but if your house
is on fire or your child is choking or whatever the unfortunate event
is, will you really be able to give them your full address and call-back
number in a time of crisis? I hope so...

Sorry about the soapbox, I have strong feelings on this one...

- Scott
Paid-on-call firefighter and network guy

Actually, I believe it would be a step in the right direction.

I've had an opportunity to use a CLEC-resold version of the Intrado
service, which I believe is what Vonage uses to provide its customers
with "911" capabilities. Intrado's job is not an easy one, and given
the technical, regulatory, and demand-related obstacles they face,
they do a decent job at what they do. (With that said, accidents can
happen, mostly in the form of the LEC neglecting to contact Intrado
and inform them of a subscriber's address, or Intrado neglecting to
enter that information in the database, and there's no real way to
detect this shy of placing test calls to 911, but I digress...)

Rather, the problem we face is that VoIP, despite working "good
enough" 99% of the time, is susceptible to failure modes above and
beyond POTS: loss of power and/or IP connectivity, to name a couple.
The likelihood of these failure modes surfacing in the event of a
fire, flood, theft, or other event requiring a 911 dispatch, is a
non-trivial concern.

What Vonage (or any operator in their position really) should do is
tell its customers, in no uncertain terms, that their service does not
exist as a replacement for a land line, and to keep a cellular or POTS
phone available for use in case of an emergency. And if a subscriber
chooses to dial 911 anyway, present them with either a reorder tone,
or a recording instructing them to hang up and proceed to the nearest
land/cell phone. Of course, the likelihood of this happening out of
moral responsibility, and without any -- dare I say -- federal
mandate, is unfortunately slim, and goes against the way these
services are presently marketed to consumers...

My $0.02,

Nope. I asked a local 911 dispatcher. They said that yes, as long as
you immediately identify your call as a non-emergency test call, and
don't do it too often, they don't object.

-- jra