TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: New Technology Poses 911 Peril VOIP Not Part of Emergency

Re: New Technology Poses 911 Peril VOIP Not Part of Emergency

17 Apr 2005 13:50:45 EDT

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Mr. Wilber gets in a discussion with
Jack Decker, moderator of VOIP News. References in the following to
'moderator' are referring to Jack Decker. PAT]

Jack Decker writes:

> [COMMENT: Okay, if there is some truth to it, then why does almost
> everyone in the press play toady for the big phone companies and try
> to lay all the blame on the VoIP companies alone?

--- end of quote ---

Wilber replies:

In your diatribe against "toady journalists" and "big phone companies"
I saw no mention of the fact that the ILECs are bound by regulations
and hampered by "universal service fees" and "E-911 fees" from which
the VoIP providers are -- and demand to be -- exempt from. It is these
fees that financed much of the telecommunications infrastructure and
much, if not all, of the nationwide E-911 system.

[Moderator's comment: I'm not sure what "Universal Service Fees" have
to do with this discussion, but I have said on several occasions that
they amount to "corporate welfare", especially for the smaller (and
often highly profitable) rural telephone companies, and they ought to
be abolished across the board. I'd rather see the fact that VoIP
companies don't pay them used as leverage to abolish these hidden
taxes/handouts, rather than trying to put VoIP companies under this
same rotten system. As for E-911 fees, I have been saying for many
months now that the only fair way to finance E-911 centers is through
the same mechanism used to finance every other emergency service in
the community (such as fire and police), be that property taxes, local
sales taxes, or whatever. There is nothing remotely fair about
billing these fees on people's phone bills, because it deprives them
of the ability to vote on whether they want these enhanced systems,
and when people have multiple phone numbers (as is more and more
common) they pay multiple E-911 fees even though their household may
be the same size as before, and isn't using 911 any more frequently -
meanwhile a large industrial facility with only a handful of phone
numbers may not be paying its fair share at all!]

Wilber notes further:

Furthermore, most of the E-911 systems currently in place cannot
easily handle the processing of 911 calls from VoIP origins. Who
should bear the burden of converting, modifying, upgrading or
replacing those local systems? Wireline users or providers who have
already been paying into the system for years to make it work while
VoIP users remain exempt?

[Moderator's comment #2: In an ideal world, the phone companies that
sold the 911 centers these technologically obsolete systems would be
forced to pay. However, I suspect that if there were more sources for
these systems -- that is, if 911 center operators didn't run to their
partners in crime at the phone companies to purchase these systems at
top dollar -- I suspect they could get far more advanced systems for
far less money. In other words, I believe the phone companies may be
DELIBERATELY selling systems to 911 centers that only work really well
with wireline services. There is a conflict of interest there, but as
I more or less said before, I think the 911 center administrators so
love it that they can put one over on the taxpayers and voters (by not
seeking their permission before installing a new system) that they
don't really question what sort of deal the phone companies are giving
them, nor whether the equipment they are being sold is expandable to
handle communications from newer forms of technology. Again, I think
911 systems should be funded by taxpayers through normal taxation
mechanisms, NOT through a surcharge on any type of communications, and
if that were done the 911 center administrators might not feel so
beholden to the phone companies and might shop around to get systems
that are more easily upgradeable.]

Wilber again:

Providers such as Vonage and others are quick to yell "foul" when they
are taken to task for rushing a product to market without assuring
that it provides the same level of safety the public already
enjoys. They are even quicker to yell "unfair" when someone suggests
that they be subject to the same regulation and fees that critical
public communications providers have had to deal with for decades. It
must be nice to have your cake and eat it too but few of us are able
to pull it off.

[Moderator's comment #3: You conveniently ignore the fact that for
many years cell phones were unable to complete calls to 911. Perhaps
you feel that all new forms of communication should be hamstrung until
they can fit into the wireline telephone companies' ways of doing
things, but I for one do not. NO ONE is forced to buy VoIP service,
but dammit, I think people should have the CHOICE to buy a product
with a greater or lesser level of safety. This is supposed to be a
free county (well, at least that is the lie we were brainwashed with
in school) and if that were the least bit true, we'd give people the
freedom to buy any product and let them make the decision whether any
risks are acceptable, and that applies not only to telecommunications
products but also to certain types of medicines and cancer cures that
have been banned by the FDA (don't even get me started on that).

Anyway, no industry has been better at having their cake and eating it
too than the traditional telcos. For example, they built their
networks using money taken from the ratepayers when people had no
choice as to providers, and they set their poles on public
rights-of-way, and then they have the unmitigated gall to claim it's
all theirs and they shouldn't have to share it with competitors. Of
course had they not had their government-enforced monopoly all these
years, there would have probably been viable competition 50 years ago
and no one would have monopoly bottleneck control on the pair of phone
wires coming into a home. VoIP, which still has a minuscule share of
the market at the moment, is the one thing that can and will break
that monopoly, and that is why we are getting all the telco-inspired
propaganda crap being fed to the press right now. But it will only
happen if customers can freely choose VoIP, and that is why the
incumbents are using every dirty trick at their disposal to try and
eliminate or delay that choice.

As for my "diatribe", no one is forcing you to read anything I write
and if you don't like what I write you can unsubscribe from VoIP News
anytime. I apologize if it sounds like I'm being short, but I really
have lost my patience with people who cannot see that the incumbent
telcos are staging a massive effort, probably via their public
relations firms and their "astroturf" consumer groups (and PLEASE
educate yourself on what an astroturf group is!), to make VoIP look
bad and even dangerous. But VoIP is no worse than cell phone service
was in the early years, and the only reason you didn't see this sort
of propaganda against cell phones was because the big phone companies
were in that from the beginning. Now it comes out (in some European
studies) that cell phone radiation may be dangerous to the brain, but
do you hear a peep out of anyone about that in this country? No, we
can make a big deal out of the fact that some guy in Texas couldn't be
bothered to activate his 911 service, but there is zero concern for
all the teenagers that are possibly going to develop brain tumors in
20 or 30 years because of their extensive cell phone use today. As
soon as the big phone companies think they are competitive in the VoIP
market, suddenly VoIP will be the best thing since sliced
bread. -Jack]

Charlie Wilber
New Hampshire

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