In December of 2004 I wrote the following about VoIP 2.0:
I have said it before and I will say it again if we don’t get our act together soon as an industry we will have some serious headaches to contend with. The positive press friendly to VoIP that we witnessed for a year will vanish the moment someone is injured or worse because there is a problem with VoIP and E911 connectivity.
The current state of 911 over today’s VoIP providers is not good. The incumbents aren’t as much of an issue as the newer carriers who transfer 911 calls to lower priority administrative lines in PSAPs. E911 over VoIP can be much better than PSTN 911. We need to come together as an industry and discuss the challenges and standards issues and make sure that e911 over VoIP becomes a reason to adopt and not a reason to pass on VoIP.
I consider this a stumbling block that needs addressing on our way to achieving VoIP 2.0. Companies like Vonage, who use technology from an innovative company called Intrado, are taking bold steps to ensure the safety of their customers. They should be commended for their efforts and others need to follow
Today the Washington Post had a story titled Texas Sues Vonage After Crime Victim Unable to Call 911. A salient quote is as follows:
Vonage subscribers Peter and Sosamma John, parents of Joyce John, were shot Feb. 2 in Houston as Joyce John tried to call 911 during a break-in at their home, according to the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. The parents, who survived their injuries, didn't specifically request 911 services when they signed up.
Here is another link to a story I have written about e-911 in the past. This remains a sticky issue and needs resolution. Many people have complained to me that the ILECs are not making it easy for VoIP providers to get to the right PSAP. I am not sure whether this is true or not but am looking not it.
Vonage for its part seems to be on the forefront of making sure VoIP service can be delivered to correctly. In its defense, you can’t necessarily know where to route calls with VoIP service because you can literally use the service anywhere, unlike PSTN lines that are at a fixed location.
Within the next few years I expect GPS receivers to be commonplace and included in VoIP devices. Once this happens, 911 issues should more or less fade away.