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VoIP 911 Emergency Service: Problems and Fixes 170

13.7BillionYears writes "Slate explores the technical hurdles VoIP faces in providing 911 emergency services and points to some technical, legislative and commercial workarounds that just might work. Some are the author's own ideas, some are already in the works. Until this little doozie gets solved, VoIP will have to suffer plenty of FUD of the credible variety and may never spark a real revolution. Of course you can always keep analog POTS (plain old telephone service) around like floppies--just for emergencies--but it'll cost you and tie you down in a number of ways."
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VoIP 911 Emergency Service: Problems and Fixes

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  • by cloudmaster ( 10662 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @03:52PM (#10222214) Homepage Journal
    Like it's real hard to just remember your address and tell them on the phone where you presentaly are located... If you can't speak, well, it's probably too late for you anyway - and if you're in a strange place, odds are you either 1) know where you are or 2) aren't in a location using VOIP. :)
    • by rokzy ( 687636 )
      what about kids who don't know the address plus lots of other imaginable scenarios?

      plus auto location has other uses. with a local taxi company it asks you to press a button if you want to go straight away and automagically knows your location. it then gives a single ring to your phone when the taxi has reached your street.
      • what about those of us who never intend to have human larvae err i mean children? if you make up your mind to remain child-free and want the option of VOIP without yet another measure "for your safety" then why the hell isn't it at least an available choice? just another example of how we're getting shafted in the name of safety.
      • Why couldn't your fancy VoIP phone digitally transmit your exact pre-programmed address and detailed directions to your house whenever it initates a call to an emergency number? If your phone was being used somewhere else other than your house, why couldn't it be some standard for the router that's carrying your connection to insert its location into the call so there'd be a rough idea where you're at?

    • Not hard to remember your address, but what if you only have time to call 911 before the burglar comes into the room and attacks you? And of course currently it is unlikely that you are using Voip if you're not at home, but soon enough there should be widely available wireless, so the odds will be increasing that you could use it.
      • by Moofie ( 22272 )
        If a burglar is in your house, you need a shotgun, not a phone.
      • Every house built in the last roughly 20 years has a service box on the house for the phone jack termination from the phone company. One of the purposes of this box is to provide you a method to isolate the phone company wiring from your house wiring for troubleshooting. It even has quick disconnects and a built in jack to attach a regular rj11 cord and phone for testing. Basically, you own and are responsible for everything after that box. If you ever have a problem with your home phone system, the firs
      • but what if you only have time to call 911 before the burglar comes into the room and attacks you?

        In this case 911 isn't going to help you. By the time the cops arrive you'll be nothing more than a bloody, mangled corpse, practice for junior crime scene technicians.

        What you need isn't a phone, but a gun.

        • What you need isn't a phone, but a gun

          Well, I'm torn between citing statistics that say with the gun you're way more likely to be shot yourself and saying you need both: "Please come quick, I've just shot an intruder."; Click. Bang! As in Sleeping with the Enemy...

          But I think the real solution is a dog with a strong defensive personality.
    • Through the Vonage web interface you set your physical address so that when you call 911 they know where you are just like any normal POTS.
    • by fean ( 212516 )
      Honestly... easiest way for this to NOT be a problem... buy a cell phone off ebay... anything with GPS locationing will work... don't activate it... 911 ALWAYS works, and they've had GPS Locationing for years, so you can get one for ~$20...

      Tell your kids that you have an emergency phone to call 911 if something bad happens...

      keep it plugged in, w/o the battery (most kyocera work without a battery as long as they're plugged in)...

      BLAMO... yay for easy solutions...
      • A lot of phones have been GPS-capable for a couple years. But the deadline to get the GPS signals converted to E911 ALI and sent to call centers isn't until 2006 and I think many carriers are trying to get that postponed. In fact, I'm not aware of any US wireless carrier that's actually implemented it at all (correct me if I'm wrong) regardless of the "Use GPS for 911" option in your cell phone menu. I wouldn't count on the dispatcher seeing anything but your phone number if you call from a cell phone.

      • That's assuming the carrier's network supports AGPS and that the public safety agency is setup to use it.

        In many places, state and local governments have stolen the revenue from the 911 fees on your phone bills and spent them on other projects. Never leave a pot of money in the same room as a politician. It is going to take years, and a major expenditure of funds, before all of this stuff is installed and working. That's not even considering the dysfunctional local politics that have blocked any progress

      • buy a cell phone off ebay... anything with GPS locationing will work... don't activate it... 911 ALWAYS works

        That's only true for analog phones. Consumer Reports had an article on this a while back. Digital cellphones have some kind of loophole where they're not actually required to support 911 if they're not registered. The Consumer Reports tests found that many dual-mode phones will automatically chose digital over analog if both are available at a particular location, and then the 911 calls didn't wor

    • Try telling the operator your location when you are on business travel to some generic office park in an unfamiliar city. Yeah, I'm somewhere in San Diego.

      Add to this, PBX systems with secret procedures for getting an outside line, and spiffy telephones with 50 buttons, labeled in Klingon. Then there are places where a 911 call results in the ambulance being dispatched to the location of the PBX, which may be miles away from where the call was made. People have died because of crap like that.

    • Like it's real hard to just remember your address and tell them on the phone where you presentaly are located... If you can't speak, well, it's probably too late for you anyway.

      It can be damn near impossible to remember the simplest things when you are hurting and scared and maybe very close to death. I know, I have been there. Fire, Pneumonia. a wound that bled through three layers of dressing. But don't take my word for it. Talk to any first responder.

    • If you can't speak, well, it's probably too late for you anyway

      Yeah, we might as well just kill the people who can't speak... and then we'll kill all the blind people... and then everybody in wheelchairs... and then the Jews, Blacks, Chinese, Mexicans....

      Those non-speaking people really have a lot of nerve. Who gave them the right to own phones? Before you know it, they'll even be on /. What a bunch of uppity fuckers.

  • I disagree... (Score:4, Informative)

    by IronMagnus ( 777535 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @03:52PM (#10222215)
    "Of course you can always keep analog POTS (plain old telephone service) around like floppies--just for emergencies--but it'll cost you and tie you down in a number of ways." ..I'm not 100% sure if landlines work this way, I would assume so, but I know for cell phones, even a non-activated cell phone can still dial 911. So go ahead and switch to VOIP, even if you don't have a cell phone, keep an old one charged up.. if theres an emergency, you can call 911 on it.
    • You are correct, 911 calls can be made from a landline, ever without service. I use VOIP and have one phone thats still on the landline just for 911 calling (should there be a power outage or a frined that needs to call 911).
    • I don't know anyone, apart from my Mum and my girlfriend's parents, who even *have* a landline any more. And the only reason my Mum has a landline is for dial-up Internet access (until wireless broadband kicks off in her area). Everyone uses mobile phones now. Landlines are a dead technology.
      • Landlines are a dead technology?? I'm not sure where you're from, but that's certainly not true in the united states:
        • voice quality is clearly lower on cell phones... Cellphones use a 8-13kbps codec. I'm not sure what landlines internally get compressed to, but since landline's digital data gets transported over wired networks, it's cheaper and thus the codecs will ultimately be configured to use a higher bitrate, and thus have better audio quality. It even seems like 3G networks will use a lower co
          • We use GSM here, with generally higher quality than land-lines. In fact, many land-lines over digital circuits use GSM anyway at some stage, at least in rural areas where pressure for channels is high.

          • The only time I've ever had a problem with cells being full is at New Year when everyone phones everyone else just at the Bells. Other than that, I have *never* had a problem with placing a call from a mobile phone. Plenty problems with the 10-circuit local exchange in the small village where my house Up
    • even if you don't have a cell phone, keep an old one charged up.. if theres an emergency, you can call 911 on it.

      I'm not so sure about this though. I have an old cellphone I would like to keep in my car for dialing 911, but there's no way to know if it would actually work for that purpose after I have cancelled my service. What if it's just something like my car breaking down, can I justify dialing 911 for that?
      • Re:I disagree... (Score:3, Informative)

        by rfc1394 ( 155777 )
        I'm not so sure about this though. I have an old cellphone I would like to keep in my car for dialing 911, but there's no way to know if it would actually work for that purpose after I have cancelled my service.
        All cell phones - I believe it even includes ones blacklisted as stolen - are required under Federal law to be able to call 911. Even if the phone has no service you should still be able to use it for that purpose.
    • Re:I disagree... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Your actually correct, part of those 911 service fees on your local POTS line goes to pay for 911 service for people who have old disconnected POTS lines without dialtone service. So even though you pick up your phone and there's no dialtone there, you can still dial 911.. provided of course that at one time you had service on that line. Otherwise go to a pawn shop, goodwill and buy an analog cell phone *911 works without service. I have VoIP and an analog bag phone with ac/12v dc converted ready to go (
  • Funny... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by comwiz56 ( 447651 ) <comwiz&gmail,com> on Saturday September 11, 2004 @03:53PM (#10222217) Homepage
    Isn't it funny how everyone is trying to keep VoIP unregulated, but then can't get 911 services. It's a compromise either way.
    • Re:Funny... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by legirons ( 809082 )
      "Isn't it funny how everyone is trying to keep VoIP unregulated, but then can't get 911 services. It's a compromise either way."

      What's funny is that you can't email 112 (or 911 or 999 or whatever..)

      With all this fuss about being able to call 112 from internet devices, they might at least have considered the much more reliable alternative which is just sitting there waiting to be used...
  • Mine has it (Score:5, Informative)

    by querencia ( 625880 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @03:54PM (#10222221)
    Time Warner Cable in Austin has VOIP with enhanced 911 service. eatures.htm#Can%20I%20call%20911

    Q: Can I call 911?

    A: Yes, absolutely. Safety is important, and enhanced 911 service is provided. Note that Digital Phone does not include back-up power and in the event of a power outage, the ability to call 911 will not be available until the power is restored.
    • Yes, but they can (dunno if they do) bolt down your location using the cable modem MAC which they can cross-reference versus their registration database. If this is the case these numbers are not globally portable. You cannot just take your phone and go somewhere else.

      The author of the article is not b***ing about local services like this. He is b***ing about Vonage and other supposedly global portable services. Well, all I can say - tough luck. In fact Vonage should NOT be trying to do anything with 911.
      • Bounce the call?

        So basically you don't think VoIP should ever be a viable replacement for POTS service? Or do you think people should be just fine without 911?
    • Of course, Time Warner Cable in Austin knows that you're, uhm, in Austin and knows which 911 call center to give your call to and can hard-wire a connect to that center from their operations center. Vonage, on the other hand, hasn't a clue which 911 center you belong to and furthermore sometimes can't reach that center because it doesn't have any "real number" besides the 911...
    • I'm not sure why they say that in the FAQ. But some of the Scientific Atlanta VOIP Modems DO have a battery pack mounted to the side. It's enough to provide a few hours of calling.

  • I save enough in LD charges with mu VoIP service to justify the cost of the service AND keep POTS for local, toll-free, and emergency calls, if necessary.
  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by photon317 ( 208409 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @03:59PM (#10222246)

    My Vonage line has 911 service. It takes them a few days from the time you order to process your physical address, locate the local emergency services that are relevant, and tie it all together into their 911 call center, but once it's set up they claim it all works fine.

    Obviously it won't correctly know your location if you pick up your home VoIP box and take it to a hotel or a starbucks access point or something like that - but those sorts of challenges should really be solved by a next generation of 911 technology (which would be as simple as saying that every phone of every type must have a gps receiver, and must send the gps data encoded in some form when dailing 911 (I'm picturing you dial 911 and you hear some high pitched screeches right at first where the call center requests GPS and your phone answers, using analog-modem-like modulation).
    • GPS doesn't work inside.
      • and adding to that, you can't just have it send its most recently received coordinates because picture this: you get in your car, you put your phone under the seat, you drive a long distance, park in a garage, then go inside. your GPS location is not correct.
      • GPS doesn't work inside.

        That's not true for many of the new GPS receiver designs being developed for E911 use with cell phones. An example []. That's a 20-30 dB improvement in sensitivity when compared to a typical handheld GPS receiver.

    • ooohhh, I got a better idea instead of modulating digital gps data, much simpler:

      You design a GPS request protocol that works like this: The requestor sends a short request tone (which could be one of the unused DTMF tones from the 4th row, the old ABCD keys), and then the phone responds with a quick bursted series of DTMF digits, which is a fixed-length numeric encoding of your GPS location (pretty easy to make). DTMF was design to work well over noisy analog lines, so it should be very robust and quick.
    • Why do a modem connect... all the resoultion they really need could be contained in just 10-12 touch tone signals, giving the GPS co-ords in that form.
    • > My Vonage line has 911 service.

      you didn't read the article, did you?

      It is clear from the article, that the author enabled his vonage 911 at his home, yet ran into problems, since the 911 call sometimes rang to some police administrative department instead of an emergency place. Other times, when he dialed 911, he got a voice message asking him to dial 911. And even when it worked, the 911 cops never had his address.

      I am quite a happy vonage customer[1] btw. 911 has worked for me here on vonage.
  • ... will void the need for a 911 Emergency Service.

    Everything will be under control.</sarcasm>

  • Uh, no... (Score:3, Informative)

    by pyrrhonist ( 701154 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:00PM (#10222254)
    Of course you can always keep analog POTS (plain old telephone service) around like floppies--just for emergencies--but it'll cost you and tie you down in a number of ways.

    No it won't, the local provider is required to provide 911 service on disconnected lines.

    • That doesn't work if they take your pair and give it to a paying customer. No wires, no 911 service.
    • I gather that in SOME locations this is true... I also can tell you for sure that western canada is not one of those places... around here, if you don't pay for a phone line you don't get dialtone at all, you can't connect to anything or anyone with a disconnected line. you will either get "battery" on the line which tells you you are still physically hooked to equipment, but doesn't let you call anywhere, or you may be physically disconnected in which case you have a dead line, either way, you're not calli
    • No it won't, the local provider is required to provide 911 service on disconnected lines.

      Can you provide a citation for this? While cellphones work this way, I can't imagine that landlines do. No power to the line, no dialtone, exactly how are you going to call 911?

      • Re:Uh, no... (Score:3, Informative)

        by rfc1394 ( 155777 )

        No it won't, the local provider is required to provide 911 service on disconnected lines.

        Can you provide a citation for this? While cellphones work this way, I can't imagine that landlines do. No power to the line, no dialtone, exactly how are you going to call 911?

        In some areas they have enough free pairs and new equipment available that they can leave service terminated lines connected to the switch, in which case they have only "service terminated" connection (there is probably an official name for t

    • Not here in qwest land. The phone line is disconnected here, and there's no power on the line at all.
  • with the new norm of rolling blackouts and power supply infrastucture disabilities, how can we be so reliant on an emergency system meant for, uh, emergencies, like the kind that happen with typically powerless results? and for those who think their little ups will keep them in conversation, you're attempting to power the entirety of the line system from point to point. but it does allow a bit of wiggle room if a ton of these ups systems were added for that purpose. one office connects to the next, to the o
    • I bought a UPS and put only my networking equipment on it (cable modem, router, mta, cordless base station). It's an APC 500. I unplugged it to see how long it would support the equipment, and I got tired of it beeping after 2 hours. That's good enough for me.

      Someone will probably say that the cable will go out when the power goes out. I doubt it because my provider (COX) offers phone service (not VOIP) through the same lines so they probably have backup power.

      The money I save by using Vonage easily p
  • 911 is free... (Score:3, Informative)

    by theknife ( 812613 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:03PM (#10222267)
    when i jumped to Vonage and cancelled my POTS service, Bellsouth left my line with a dial tone and a message that said the line could only be used for 911. problem solved at zero cost:-)
    • Re:911 is free... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      But if you dont have 'service', how will they tie your line back to a location since you have no account data?

      Sure you can call, but if your unable to speak coherently, they may not find you in time..

      Just a thought.
      • You pay a FUSF on your DSL that pays for the "free" 911-only portion of the line. You pay this into a pool that intends to make such 911 service universal. Federal Universal Service Fee. Call your congressman and say you want the universal service upped to include 911 over DSL. DONE.
      • Re:911 is free... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rfc1394 ( 155777 )

        But if you dont have 'service', how will they tie your line back to a location since you have no account data?

        Sure you can call, but if your unable to speak coherently, they may not find you in time..

        Every POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service, e.g. wired telephone line) has two identifiers: the telephone number of the subscriber which may or may not be unique (because of various options such as the main number of a business being used, or a guest dialing a number from their room in a hotel and having the ho

      • Like the CO switch wouldn't know where that call originated from.
  • Pots..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Interested Guy ( 18007 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:04PM (#10222273) Homepage
    I have been playing with this VoIP stuff a lot lately. My wife has worked for our county 911 office for quite some time, so this is a big concern.

    There are some ways around this... My Router (Sipura spa-3000) can route calls out to a POTS line if you dial 911. You just gotta have a pots line.. My provider (Qwest) will sell me a measured service line for 9 bucks per month. Incoming calls are free, outgoing calls cost 2 cents for first minute one cent for additional minutes. (They didn't advertize this anywhere, I had to ask)

    I also hear that if you disconnect your phone line, it is still likely to remain attached to the phone company so that you can call and order service. If the phone company gets a 911 call on the disconnected line, they will still forward it to your 911 center, likely without any ANI/ALI E911 data.. (Try this at your own risk)

  • For me, this is a non-issue until the phone companies start offering DSL independent of phone service.
  • by MoOsEb0y ( 2177 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:05PM (#10222281)
    Keep a cell phone around with no service plan. They are required to dial out to 911 regardless. You can pick one up at a local thrift shop for around 5 dollars.
  • First, to guarantee 911 service, force ISPs and VOIP providers into providing at least six nine's of uptime. The chances of an emergency happening within the few brief moments of downtime spread here and there throughout a year are slim. This would be no worse than having a signal fade on a cell phone.

    Second, mandate that ISPs switch to IPv6 and that each customer have an exclusive range of addresses for each location. That way, any call made with VOIP is instantly traceable.

    Then we could be completely ri

    • by betelgeuse-4 ( 745816 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:24PM (#10222367) Homepage Journal
      Third, force power suppliers to provide six nines of uptime, or force all VOIP users to have battery/generator backup that can increase uptime to six nines.
      • Adding battery backup to a VOIP phone is a relatively simple affair vis cell phones and cordless phones. Adding battery backup to a modem (cable or dsl) is also trivial. Don't forget that many people only have cordless phones -- which are already susceptible to power outages. This would be no different.

        Your argument also seems to be oblivious to the fact that regular phone lines *do* get cut from accidents and whatnot. Having power temporarily go off in a neighbourhood is no different. The phone companies

      • six nines of uptime

        That's an average of 31-and-a-half seconds of down time per year. That quickly gets rather unreasonable when you factor in ordinary hardware failure, accidents, human error, intentional criminal acts, war, and natural events such as hurricanes, tornados, lightning, floods, quakes, fires, mudslides, and who knows what else.

        Any one of those events causing a mere 1-hour outage once in a hundred and fourteen years would fail "6 nines" reliability. Hell, on a 100+ year time scale you even m
  • I wonder if it would be possible to somehow route the Fire & Rescue radio channels through voip, because that was a large deterrent in broadband over powerlines, because of the interference. The interference between the powerlines and the Fire/Police radios. I know that opens a good deal of security issues, but it could be a possible alternative, rather than to just shut it all down?
  • The ultimate problem is reliability. Last time I had cable it was out a couple days every month, and I was always quoted 2-5 days for repair. The thought of being without a phone for 2 days is not an option. I wonder how much cable companies would have to add to their subscription fees to cover 99.9% reliability and 1 or less day repair schedules.

    So to me the switch would be to cell phones, which, in my experience is much more reliable than an internet connection. Not only that, but I have to manage o

    • There are still folks in Palm Beach county without power/phone in the wake of Frances. In fact, FPL is saying that some will not be back up until 9/17!

      I keep two old Trimline phones & a butt-in handy.

  • One huge problem is when the cable goes out. For whatever reason, whether the company is working on the cable, or something else. You can't call the cable company if VoIP is all you have.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:26PM (#10222375)
    This privacy freak is really pissed off that so many people take 911 locator service for VOIP and cell-phones so seriously. It is all just a red-herring to distract us from the fact that they are building location tracking into systems that don't need it.

    The whole 911 "problem" could be solved in a very simple way - voluntarily. Just add a dohickey to the protocol so that when calling 911 (or any other number you want to send location info to) the phone sends a chunk of data as part of the call. It is up to the phone's owner to program the phone with whatever geographic location information they want transmitted in such cases. For the safety-freaks and soccer moms some phones would come with a GPS that would automagically fill in that chunk with the most recently recorded GPS coordinates. For the privacy-freaks other phones without GPS would require that the current street address be manually typed in, at which point you could easily LIE or just leave it blank if that's what you wanted. Whatever option you choose, the owner of the phone, not the FCC nor the FBI nor the DHS should have control over what is repoted when.

    Do that, and all this infrastructure, overhead and complication just goes away, poof! But then so does the ability of the government to use the phone system as a mass-tracking device.
    • What's even more interesting is that under the battle cry of "Safety!" nearly every slashdotter in this conversation takes the COMPULSORY ability to physically locate your phone as a necessity.

      Thanks, but I'll pass. I don't want anyone tracking my physical location by ANY means unless I specifically grant them permission to do so. Period. As far as I'm concerned a compulsory system is a violation of the spirit of the 4th Amendment, if not the actual letter (and don't give me any bullshit about how I can
  • Keep your analog (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sax Maniac ( 88550 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:26PM (#10222379) Homepage Journal
    Maybe this isn't true everywhere, but whenever I've moved into a new place, there is a phone line already attached. You pick up, and it's not a dead line - a cheery voice will tell you how to order service. You can't make any calls, other than to their order line, or 911.
  • but it'll cost you and tie you down in a number of ways."

    um, no , it won't cost you.

    if there is a landline to your house, and a plug, you can pick that up and dial 911 on it, and it will connect, its a FCC regulation, I believe.

  • Nice to be talking about 911 on 9/11. Heh. Anyway.

    Why not keep an old cellphone for 911 service? All cellphones can make 911 calls, wether or not they have any other cellular service. That might be better, since GPS enabled cellphoens can give exact locations.

    In fact, one thing you could do is have a wi-fi enabled VOIP handset that uses the internet for regular calls, and cellular service for 911 calls.
  • by 1310nm ( 687270 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:52PM (#10222509)
    I use Vonage, and I have 911 service], it's just ghettolized in that it's not "E-911", but if I dial 911, they will have my address and come out - it took less than a day for my information to be accepted and 911 activated on my account:

    "We have completed your activation request for 911 Dialing. You may now dial 911 from your Vonage DigitalVoice(tm) line. PLEASE DO NOT TEST THE 911 DIALING SERVICE.

    When you dial 911, Vonage DigitalVoice(tm) will route your call to the nearest Public Service Answering Point (PSAP) responsible for effecting emergency response services in your area, based on the following address:" (address follows)

    Packet8 has real E-911 according to their FAQ:

    "Great options for a small monthly fee

    * Virtual Phone Numbers
    * Enhanced 911
    * Toll Free Services
    * VideoPhone
    * Virtual Office"

    Sorry, but 911 wouldn't be enough to keep VoIP from becoming the voice service of the future, although as you can clearly see, it is already pretty standard with most large VoIP providers. What exactly is the problem here?
  • Surely the necessary information can be recovered from the internet end. The VoIP provider certainly knows your IP number, which will typically track you back to your ISP. They know what their NAT boxes are doing, and should be able to track you to a specific dial-up line or wireless access point. In almost all cases, this should correspond to a reasonably specific location.

    Protocols could be put in place to allow automated recovery of this information. Privacy freaks could evade it pretty easily by going
  • This is bizarre (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aminorex ( 141494 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:57PM (#10222531) Homepage Journal
    The cellular industry has grown by leaps and
    bounds on a continuous ongoing basis, long before
    E911 became available. I understand that the
    considerations relative to the market are different
    for VOIP, but clearly there is a precedent which
    leads to the conclusion that E911 is not crucial
    to the uptake of a new telephony delivery format.

    It seems terribly perverse to call
    it FUD on the one hand, and spread the FUD
    with the other hand.
    • Cell phones started as compliments to a standard POTS service. Once they got 911, people started to use Cells as their only phone line.

      Until VoIP has the reliability of POTS (it works when the power is out, as long as there's a connection), it won't be the main line for anyone.

      See as how a POTS system with 911 is totally free (if you don't want any other service), I can see that most people will use VoIP but keep a POTS line only for 911. And maybe even have it hooked up to a non-electrified phone.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 11, 2004 @04:59PM (#10222541)
    The dinosaurs are still clutching like mad to the gold numbers (the ones that spell out words). And they continue the monopoly by keeping the localities separated, and the splitting the region codes. If I want to call next door, or a few miles away in the same city, I have numerous area codes to wade through (718, 646, 917 just in Queens, NY, and 212 and other codes across the line in Bronx/Manhattan). And though 917 area codes were once provided solely for pagers and cellular phones, this is no longer true, 917 area codes now include home numbers, but try telling this to a bank that refuses a 917 number as a cell number or pager number.

    VOIP should make it possible to increase the number of digits to more than 7 for a local number. And because of the numbers (skype I believe is already in millions of users and can dial out to regular lines, vonage is in the hundreds of thousands and growing, my local isp provides his own voip, and so on), it should be possible for a team of skype and vonage, possibly with no one else, to begin the process of increasing a local number from 7 to 10 or 11 digits.

    This can be done by the following: treat all 7 digit numbers as a top level number, where if 7 numbers are dialed (or 10/11 with area code), 3 or 4 zeroes are automatically added to the end; the number 212-123-4567 is automatically adjusted by skype/vonage to terminate at 212-123-4567-0000, and users can add additional lines to the base number, or their account, where additional numbers can become 212-123-4567-0010 for a second line, 212-123-4567-0329 for a fax line (spells "fax"), 212-123-4567-2355 for a cell phone (spells "cell"), etc. Users who don't want people to easily guess a fax number can choose a different random number for fax, there are 9,999 possibilities to choose from. Adding 4 digits makes spelling more words possible (a little tough to explain the hold on gold numbers, but diminishes control if you think about the added words that can be spelled).

    This would obviously take many years to make work correctly (would break old pbx) but I can make the changes now on my fax machine, most old pbxs are being dropped in favor of voip (especially as the old pbx systems break), and would be limited to skype (which breaks rfcs right now anyway) and vonage (breaks rfcs?), but others can adopt more quickly because the newer equipment can have its firmware upgraded, it isn't hard coded in like old systems, and the new voip systems are directly connected to the internet making upgrades easy (vonage box upgraded itself when plugged in initially).

    The time to add numbers is now. this can bring back area codes to some sanity (one area code for whole state would be nice, one code per county would be ok too, but one code for multi-county cities would be better than chopping up a single county into a number of area codes).

    I'm sure there are hurdles that others will point out. But skype, with the skype to skype calling, makes it possible to add numbers. If it becomes popular (and I'm betting it would), then others (vonage could do it vonage-to-vonage, vonage-to-skype, skype-to-vonage) would jump in, lest they lose business to skype.

    Adding 4 digits (or even 3) to the end of a number would cut dramatically the number of phone numbers needed. And I know small businesses would welcome consolidating fax, cell, pager, and extensions under a single number. They already do this with "hunting" on a single main number anyway. And this is being done more and more with fax numbers, where computerized phone systems make it possible to receive a fax coming in on any phone number, not just dedicated numbers like it used to be.

    POTS companies would still have control over, and be able to charge a premium on, gold numbers. But a lot of numbers would be freed under the additional digits, including what are gold numbers, but aren't being charged as such because companies have held the numbers for longer than the gold number charging has been out. And as those gold numbers migrate to oth
  • Real E911 for VoIP (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    E911 for VoIP is on the way. It will be able to be integrated into your existing VoIP service and some VoIP providers may even try to sell it to you as a value-add. The problem of moving to a different location should be diminished as the methods to update your address become more real-time.
  • I don't get it. OnStar is a popular private company that specializes in getting emergency serveices help to people if they've been in an accident on the road. Either 911 should be privatized as a for-pay service or else the government should require OnStar for every vehicle owner in the States.

    The concept is the same for phone users who aren't in vehicels. The government IMO should not be forcing this on any operator. If having 911 is so important to people they will gravitate towards companies that pr
    • The problem is, many people would choose NOT to have 911 service, figuring they'll never need it, then when they DO need it, and it doesn't work, they cry to the government for not protecting them, or even worse, if I am in your house, and you don't have 911 service, but I need help and I call 911, and nothing happens, chances are there's a lawsuit there because I EXPECT 911 service to work on all phones, and there is no way for me to tell just looking at the phone that it is not a "normal" 911 equiped phon
    • It is in everyone's interest to keep small fires from escalating into a burn-out of an entire neighborhood. Fires, accidents and disease all have a public cost and the first response is critical. I am not easily persuaded by an argument that elevates personal privacy to an absolute value. But setting that aside, a 911 trace occurs only when you are in deep shit anyway, and to fear it seems a kind of madness.
  • by hedley ( 8715 ) <> on Saturday September 11, 2004 @05:47PM (#10222779) Homepage Journal
    If you pay the E911 $3/mon fee. It will send
    your address to the operator. On broadbandreports people have tried it and indicte it works properly. pay, play.

  • Let's not let (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Saturday September 11, 2004 @05:49PM (#10222798)
    911 get in the way of an otherwise great service.

    Remember, the phone system was not built for 911 service, 911 service was something that was added on, because it was feasible.

    Also, in days of your, 911 operators DIDN'T know your address... you had to tell them.... the service was simply so you had an easy to remember number for emergency services.

    So sure, let's come up with some good ways to provide 911 service over VoIP.. but let's not let waiting for that slow us down, either.
  • credible FUD? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dirk ( 87083 ) <> on Saturday September 11, 2004 @08:17PM (#10223708) Homepage
    VoIP will have to suffer plenty of FUD of the credible variety

    This has to be one of the stupider statments I have ever read. IF it's true, it's not FUD. Either it is a legitimate concern (which I think this is) or it is a load of higwash and is FUD. Legitimate issues can certainly bring up legitimate concerns, but that doesn't make them FUD.
    • IF it's true, it's not FUD.

      Wrong. Good FUD has quite a bit of truth to it, and there's nothing that says FUD has to be wrong. It's just that the "concern" probably isn't really as bad as people make it out to be.

  • Why not add a GPS unit to VoIP phones and send GPS data with every emergency call?

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