Bells Ringing in Net Phone 911

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By Ben Charny Staff Writer, CNET

A 17-year-old girl's call to 911 earlier this month after both her parents were shot by intruders never got through to police.

Rather, the Houston teen got a recording from the Net phone company her family recently began using telling her that 911 service wasn't available. She managed to escape to summon authorities and an ambulance from elsewhere -- with a phone that did provide 911 connection.

This nightmarish scenario is fresh evidence of continuing 911 problems for Net phone providers, say executives gathering for this week's Voice on the Net Spring 2005 trade show in San Jose, Calif. Net phone providers sell voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, telephone services that use the unregulated Internet rather than the more expensive, heavily taxed and less efficient traditional phone network. That network is dominated by the four local phone giants, also called the Baby Bells, which provide 911 services. The majority of U.S. Net phone providers still cannot successfully route a 911 call to the right emergency calling center and also provide emergency operators with the caller's phone number and location.

There has been recent progress, however. The Bells are closer than ever to allowing Net phone operators direct access to their emergency call infrastructure, which would ease a major hurdle in offering better 911 VoIP service.

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How to Distribute VoIP Throughout a Home:
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Jack Decker
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