VoIP customers to get “real” 911 services

All VoIP customers are one step closer to having “real” 911 services accessible to them, thanks to the Senate. The body passed the IP-Enabled Voice Communications and Public Safety Act last night, a bill that had been proposed by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). The legislation was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last year, and will now go on to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

The bill will require all VoIP companies to provide enhanced 911 (E911) services to all subscribers. “Enhanced” means that subscribers who dial 911 will be connected to a local operator and their details (phone number, address, etc.) will be transmitted automatically. Compare that to what happened to one Minnesota Vonage customer, who dialed 911 when his house was on fire and got connected to Vonage’s own emergency services center that proceeded to put him on hold. Vonage says that about 70 percent of its customers have access to E911, but that still leaves a sizable percentage without it.

The FCC has been aware of this problem for years now, which is why it has been pressing VoIP services to support E911. The House had a provision as part of its Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act requiring VoIP to offer E911 to all customers too. So far, however, nothing has passed that would mandate such a thing. (link)

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