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

Re: Texas Sues Vonage Over 911 Problem

Justin Time (
28 Mar 2005 12:02:03 -0800

> [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?

To answer the question about what number is shown at the PSAP. I
would have to say it depends on what the PSAP is capable of receiving.
Now, before you say that is a cop-out, in this city all cellular calls
come in on dedicated trunk groups. So immediately the operator knows
it is a cellular call. The location given, and this is from memory
from working with it a couple of years ago is that of the cell tower.
As far as locating a cell phone from a cell tower, it takes a while
but it can be done through triangulation. One has to assume the
signal is being seen by multiple towers, but the tower having the best
reception will be the primary tower for handling the call.

> 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.

As far as GSM, or CDMA or IDEN transmitting your location by using
GPS, this is possible. But not all phones are GPS enabled nor have
all cellular carriers upgraded all their equipment to handle reporting
of GPS data and not all PSAPs have been upgraded to receive the data.
This is a technology that is very much in progress and is being
deployed. The deployment isn't as quick as some would like, but it is
being rolled out. In fact I am currently testing one of the latest
converged devices from a major manufacturer and it is not GPS enabled
even though it was released within the past 90 days.

> 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.

Yes, the issue with getting 911 turned on with VOIP, whether it be
Vonage or one of the other carriers is something that has to be worked
out. With your statement above you are beginning to see some of the
technical issues with attempting to tie everything back to a telephone
number. If you take your Vonage adapter and a telephone from
Independence to Tulsa and make a 9-1-1 call, what PSAP is going to get
the call? From the description you have provided it will be the one
tied to the location information given when you enabled the service.
This isn't much help in Tulsa. If you had the boundary router or some
other device route the call based on where it was first received, how
would you track it back to the physical location? Unlike a cell phone
you aren't hitting different points with different signal strengths
that can be triangulated, and the last time I checked, GPS doesn't
work indoors.

> 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]

While Independence handles 1 or 2 emergency calls per day, this city
handles between 20 and 40 an hour with more, up to 200, during peak
periods. This includes the true emergencies where a police or fire &
EMS response is needed to the calls about potholes, trash, illegally
parked cars, and time-of-day requests. With 20 operators on duty and
over 100 calls in an hour means a call is coming in about every 100
seconds. Now, add a mix of numbers coming in on the administrative
lines, like 3-1-1, and you have a good chance the emergency on the
non-emergency line is not going to be answered, sometimes for several
minutes. You can imagine the hew and cry that would be raised because
their emergency, however legitimate, wasn't answered immediately.

Now to give you an idea of call flow, the call is taken by a trained
operator. The operator asks the diagnostic questions to determine the
type of emergency, takes necessary data to fill in the Computer Aided
Dispatch (CAD) entries and the computer sends the call to the
appropriate dispatcher. The dispatcher, based on the CAD data selects
the closest unit for response and assigns the call a priority. If the
call is for medical services or the fire department, once the call
data is logged it is transferred to Fire / EMS for dispatch. The call
taker remains on the line to be certain a police response is not
required before disconnecting (like an auto accident with injuries).
If police response is also required, the CAD data is then sent to the
police dispatcher for action as well. If police response is not
required the call taker is then available to take the next call in
queue, 9-1-1 calls first.

While it is the responsibility of the government to protect its
citizens and visitors, the costs of the equipment and personnel
handling emergency calls are _partially_ offset by the fees collected.
This is where the VOIP callers end up on the wrong queue. As they
refuse to collect and pay the fees, their calls are not priority but

Rodgers Platt

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: John Bartley: "Re: New Long Range Cordless Phones?"
Go to Previous message: "Re: Texas Sues Vonage Over 911 Problem"
May be in reply to: Jack Decker: "Texas Sues Vonage Over 911 Problem"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page