Vonage Changes 911 to Opt-Out

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By David Sims, TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist

Tired of state attorney generals threatening lawsuits over its 911 offerings, VoIP provider Vonage Holdings Corp. said it will change its registration process to make 911 services an opt-out rather than an opt-in option, according to wire service reports this morning.

Vonage chief executive Jeffrey Citron said the company would change its registration procedures to the opt-out format "sometime this summer," as part of an overall revamping of the company's 911 services implementations.

Vonage is currently facing lawsuits from several states over both the advertisment and implementation of its 911 services, which some states claim are misleading. CEO Citron said Vonage's conversations with the Texas attorney general led him to believe that changing 911 from opt-in to opt-out was a way to make progress on resolving Texas's issues with Vonage's publicity material and business practices.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I am not sure that is going to be an improvement. At least now, (with opt-in) if a person takes the messages he receives seriously and makes an effort to get 911 turned on, as I did, he is going to have at least some working knowledge of the limitations of the system. The hassle now are those people who 'just assume VOIP works like any other phone'. Most of the time, those people know from nothing, all of a sudden have an emergency and dial into 911, find it unavailable then the VOIP carrier catches hell for it. At least VOIP can now respond, "We _told_ you and you agreed to our terms."

The people who 'just assume' are still going to be around, but VOIP really does leave itself open for a lawsuit when they begin to contend (by making it an opt-out function) that VOIP is 'just like any other phone', when in fact 911 will possibly be the critical distinction why it is not. Now the dummies can truthfully say "you never told me". I hope, for legal reasons, VOIP holds off on the conversion between opt-in/opt-out until they have so throughly and completely tested it under stressful conditions that they _know_ it will work for the largest number of their customers. PAT]

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Jack Decker
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