TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Texas Sues Vonage Over 911 Problem

Re: Texas Sues Vonage Over 911 Problem

Justin Time (
25 Mar 2005 11:23:48 -0800

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

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.

Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005 10:43:14 -0900
From: Dave <newsgroups@dave!!!christense!!n.o!!!r!!!g>
Newsgroups: comp.dcom.telecom
Subject: Re: New Long Range Cordless Phones?
Message-ID: <>
Organization: TELECOM Digest
X-Telecom-Digest: Volume 24, Issue 131, Message 12 of 17
Lines: 38

If I set up another computer with Asterix running, this kludge isnt
going to be terribly cost effective. The rate for the additional
electricity (38-43 cents per KWH) will negate the advantages.

The other problems with sourcing VOIP from a provider in Alaska is
that a) all high speed connections are metered and b) no VOIP carriers
offer TN's in the 907 NPA, and being in a small rate center the odds
of having a local TN are even less.

Other then costs and time involved in getting a tech class ham
license, can someone estimate what the costs and legalities involved
in setting up a mobile radio system with a (pseudo-encrypted) PSTN
gateway? Then I could 'legally' do what these devices do. The
terrain is pretty open and flat and I have a barn that I could mount
my equipment on which is above the treeline. At least if i'm going to
burn additional dead dinosaurs I can have a higher 'gee-whiz' factor.

Or should I just say forget this idea and go back to Iridium?

Thanks in advance.

Tony P. wrote:

>> I'm living in a rural Alaskan town and traditional cell service is
>> spotty to none, even with an old bag phone and roof antenna so I was
>> thinking that this could be an interesting approach to local mobile
>> phone service.

> I highly doubt that it is legal in the U.S. However, modifying your
> 802.11 gear and using say a PalmOS type machine with an 802.11 card
> you could probably cobble together a VoIP solution that has a linear
> range of 11 miles or so, depending on what type and pattern of
> radiator you decide to use.

> From what I've read about these units they operate in the amateur
> radio band so I take sort of strong offense to that.

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