Re: Texas Sues Vonage Over 911 Problem

From two different responses by our editor:

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: But wouldn't the ideal arrangement be > like here? A number designated for 'emergency but not 911' phone is > terminated on the consoles of the persons who respond for police, etc, > and they are tipped off "if this line, with its unusual cadence in > ringing goes off, it is to be treated like any other emergency call". > Our dispatchers answer not only the occassional 911 call, but they > also answer for the city hall offices. The PSAP people (at Vonage, and > elsewhere) are told to connect with them as needed _using one of the > back lines_ on the city hall group; a line which would almost never > get calls on its own. Now, if _that phone_ rings/flashes, treat it as > a priority emergency call. The same woman sitting there taking calls > for the city hall centrex/switchboard sees that one phone give out a > continuous (never pausing) ring with the light on the wall flashing at > a furious pace says 'ah, it is an emergency call from a system which > cannot (for whatever reason) use 911. She answers it and makes > dispatch as needed. Does not seem like that major of problem. That > single phone, by the way, also has a caller-ID device on it, and a > rather detailed map on the wall as well, so the dispatcher gets the > essence of the desired information, even if not every single bit of > it. Ah, but that would involve _training_ the dispatchers in possibly > a new procedure. Do you think their Civil Servants Union would allow > that sort of a requirement?

A couple of misconceptions need to be addressed here Pat. First of all not everywhere is "like here" meaning Independence, Kansas. Let's move your scenario out of the rural area and into a major city. The PSAP operators in this major city on the Eastern Seaboard only answer two types of calls, they are either 9-1-1 or 3-1-1. The PSAP, with its equipment and 20 operators per shift is funded through the fees collected on telephone numbers terminating within its service area. The cellular companies pay a fee for each of their trunks that terminate in their cell sites within the service area. The local cable companies which provide telephone service bundled with their television and data services pay a fee to help support the PSAP. It seems everyone pays a fee to support the PSAP except the VOIP people who claim their having to pay the fee would be anti-competitive "because they are not a phone company." If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, the obvious conclusion would be that it is what it puports to be - unless it is a VOIP provider.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: If the caller wishes to travel around, > as for example with a cellular phone, that certainly is not the VOIP > carrier's fault. But Vonage, as far as I know, deliberatly takes two > or three days *after* receiving an email request from someone asking > to be included in the PSAP database to detirmine _where_ to route the > call which gets _aliased_ in dialing to '911'. In larger metropolitan > areas, of course, most everyone gets redirected to the same number. In > smaller, more rural areas like mine, Vonage has to inquire of the > local authorities _exactly where_ the call is to be routed. They found > in their own research that the 'county seat' for Montgomery County, > Kansas is Independence; that the jail and courthouse are here, and > that in fact, Independence has its own police department as well, so > it was easy enough to inquire of local authorities, "which phone > number should calls aliased to our 911 be funneled through?" And Lisa, > they do _not_ get all ones or zeros or some other flaky number on > their caller ID display, they get an actual number, although as the > lady told me, "at first glance, the screen display looks odd; it is > not what we usually see for an Independence or Independence Rural > location." When Vonage wrote me email to say it was 'now turned on' > they did include a cautionary note: "this only works correctly if > you are stationary in location. If you travel around or move to > another location it may not be the best way to reach emergency res- > ponders." PAT]

Now your example of "If the caller wishes to travel around, as for example with a cellular phone, that certainly is not the VOIP carrier's fault." is rather rife with flaws. If I travel to Independence, Kansas with my cell phone, which has an eastern city's identification, the PSAP in Independence would know the 9-1-1 call was local because it would ring in from the cellular switiching site based on the tower I was using. My call from my cellular phone wouldn't be routed to the PSAP that handles the NPA-NXX on the phone, but the PSAP that handles emergency services where the TOWER is located. Now, are you beginning to see the problems with being able to take your VOIP phone traveling and use the service wherever you have a broadband connection?

The VOIP carriers are using the telephone number assigned to the adapter for routing to the PSAP rather than the location of the router/gateway or whatever is the first unit to handle the call. Until some method is determined to associate a physical address with a connection, the problem will remain. People who think that VOIP is the answer to their telephone needs are being left hanging high-and-dry when it comes to emergency services.

Oh, those 3-1-1 non-emergency calls are just that, a non-emergency in the training of the PSAP operators. A 3-1-1 call will go unanswered should an active call on 9-1-1 be in process. The busiest hour for calls in this PSAP just happen to be the two hours before and after the bars close.

One other point about the difference between a 9-1-1 call and a 3-1-1 call. All 9-1-1 calls are delivered with ANI and perform a "data dip" to provide the ALI or location of the caller. 3-1-1 calls, by FCC mandate will only deliver Caller ID - if provided.

Rodgers Platt

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Aside for a minute the fact that I do not approve of 311 or the idea of police acting as the Answering Service for the entire government, which is what they would like, let's just talk about your cellular comparison. Yes, if you came here to visit from wherever, your cellular call to 911 would get routed as you say. But you have had a stroke, or for some other reason are unable/unwilling to speak, what _display_ will the 911 person _here_ receive? Your east coast address/phone number ID will be useless ... will it give the outgoing phone number of the local tower? What good will that do? By using GSM, I suppose _your_ phone could transmit to _our_ tower some string to be used as your 'temporary location' to be passed along as the 'ID' to _our_ dispatcher ... that might work.

Maybe VOIP could do something similar: A call on a VOIP phone to 911 would be intercepted by the broadband carrier handling your traffic and routed _from that point_ over a phone line to the local 911 spot. I do not honestly know _how_ Vonage handles it; only that they warn you repeatedly prior to getting the adapter turned on that "if you wish to use 911 from this adapter, you _must_ tell us the main address (house number, apartment number, etc) where the police or firemen or doctor or whoever is to go to find you and your distress. We need that information to make 911 work. It is _not_ optional." Then two or three days later they advise you the work is finished.

I should also point out that a 911 call is a rarity here; there are one or two per _day_ between the various places they respond for, including Independence PD, 'Independence Rural', Montomgery County Sheriff, Cherryvale, KS PD (overnight, when the one officer on duty there is the only staff person on duty in the town of 2000 people). And, she answers the City Hall centrex, and is the receptionist for the Police Department which is in the basement of our City Hall. And, on the occassion of a 911 call arriving, she _immediatly_ says on the radio 'nine one one call, stand by ... ' which means all the officers on the street, etc who may be chattering on the radio know to shut up and wait and listen. Using my scanner, I will hear her sometimes 'patching in her headset line' and a one-way conversation while she questions the caller: 'which way did you see them go? what kind of car was it, etc' and she will repeat back to the caller (and over the air of course) whatever the caller told her; officers all over southeast Kansas listening in and ready to move out if it involves their area. The overwhelming majority of our 'crime' around here involves teenagers and other young guys who are rowdy and very possibly had been drinking. They (police) also claim there is a 'terrible problem with drugs' here; my local attorney just laughs and says "that is the usual police BS; they find some kid with a bunch of old cola bottles and the powder that _could_ be used to make meth so police claim the kid has a 'meth lab' going on". The usual give and take you find between police and defense lawyers everywhere. PAT]

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what we are -- Africans who are in America. You're nothing but Africans. Nothing but Africans. In fact, you'd get farther calling yourself African instead of Negro. Africans don't catch hell. You're the only one catching hell. They don't have to pass civil-rights bills for Africans. An African can go anywhere he wants right now. All you've got to do is tie your head up. That's right, go anywhere you want. Just stop being a Negro. Change your name to Hoogagagooba. That'll show you how silly the white man is. You're dealing with a silly man. A friend of mine who's very dark put a turban on his head and went into a restaurant in Atlanta before they called themselves desegregated. He went into a white restaurant, he sat down, they served him, and he said, "What would happen if a Negro came in here? And there he's sitting, black as night, but because he had his head wrapped up the waitress looked back at him and says, "Why, there wouldn't no n***er dare come in here."

So, you're dealing with a man whose bias and prejudice are making him lose his mind, his intelligence, every day. He's frightened. He looks around and sees what's taking place on this earth, and he sees that the pendulum of time is swinging in your direction. The dark people are waking up. They're losing their fear of the white man. No place where he's fighting right now is he winning. Everywhere he's fighting

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