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Vonage Everything you wanted to know about 911 but were afraid to ask It's a primal

Everything you wanted to know about 911
but were afraid to ask

It's a primal fear - an emergency occurs and since early childhood it's been drilled into our heads to dial 911 from any phone to be immediately connected to help. With Voip a bunch of ugly questions get raised and Vonage has, to their credit, been stepping forward to address the issues.

You must active the 911 service for your Vonage line. This activation is a couple of day process by which it equates your physical address (using geomapping software) to the correct PSAP (Public Service Answering Point or a fancy name for 911 call center) area.

Vonage receives 911 services from a great public company (you should have bought it 1 year ago) called Intrado. Based in Colorado, they provide 911 services to Tier 2 & 3 (smaller) telephone companies.

It's important to remember that Vonage treats every call you make like a long distance call, meaning they send the call to a Global Crossing gateway located somewhere in the U.S. (read - it's not in your local town).

How does 911 work with Vonage?
Assuming your 911 service is active, when you dial 911 Vonage via IP sends a realtime message to Intrado saying you (meaning your telephone number) has dialed 911, Intrado does a database look-up and indicates you've been authenticated (meaning they can resolve your address), Intrado responses to Vonage with the General Emergency Telephone number for your local PSAP. Vonage then sends the call to Global Crossing for it to terminate as a normal long distance telephone call with the destination being the PSAP.

All PSAP's have general emergency numbers, these are NORMAL telephone numbers that you can dial to reach the emergency call center.

How does this differ from E911 service?
Your local traditional telephone company has (courtesy of taxes) installed E911 equipment that communicates with the local PSAP. This E911 equipment transmits on a separate data path your name and physical address information from the telephone company TO the PSAP for each telephone call made.

In addition, E911 allows the operator to 'seize' the telephone line and not allow it to disconnect (meaning in case someone tries to hang-up).

What's important here is that your phyical address is maintained by the telephone company and sent to the PSAP only when 911 is dialed.

How does Vonage differ?
911 with Vonage means your call is sent to the PSAP under a general purpose emergency number. The PSAP, while it gets your caller line id, has no way to figure out your address. Further, because it's coming in as a non 'E' call, the center has no way to seize your telephone line should you attempt to hang-up.

Why does Vonage have to get information from Intrado on the fly?
Vonage pings Intrado for the correct PSAP general emergency number when you dial 911. The reason for this is that PSAP numbers do change and Intrado specializes in keeping up with them.

Second, PSAP numbers also change depending upon time of day/day of week. This is mainly seen in rural communities where the local police department takes calls during the business day but calls are routed to the sheriff's department during off hours (for example).

Finally, if Intrado cannot resolve your local PSAP during a 911 call, they have their own 24-hr call center which will take the call in an overflow, point of last resort.

Is Vonage's method less than secure?
The short answer is yes. If you have children or elderly who might not know/remember your address in an emergency, Vonage's 911 implementation won't help.

Will Vonage be able to implement E911 services?
E911 equipment is typically maintained by your local telephone company, who charge of between $2-$6 a month appear on your bill (these are taxes to your local gov't but they pay the telephone company for the E911 equpment). Your local telephone company is also required to cooperate with competitive telephone companies (CLEC's) to provide E911 access (for a fee of course).

The problem is that inbound Vonage calls come into the system from a local partner CLEC in your area BUT all outbound calls are sent to a long distance terminating partner (Global Crossing). Vonage, today, has no way to send outbound calls back to the local CLEC partner.

In fact, the local CLEC partner may not want to get the calls as 911 calls are lawsuit prone. No doubt Vonage is working on this but it's not fixed today.

What else should I know about 911?
The U.S. 911 system is a bit like our air traffic control system, it's old and in need of upgrade, but everyone is scared to touch it. Telephone companies hate 911 (though they earn bunches of money from it), as they typically get sued a couple of times of year for a call gone wrong.

When you dial 911 from your traditional telephone line a bunch of stuff starts to happen behind the scenes. First, during the call ALL features are immediately deactivated (meaning you wouldn't get a call waiting beep during an emergency). Second, your telephone company begins a 'pin trap' of the call itself, meaning they monitoring all aspects of the line and putting the information into a file. These traps include, time caller went off hook, time caller dialed, time caller connected, digits dialed during the call, time caller disconnected. This is mainly done to protect themselves in the event of a lawsuit.

Read The Full Thread:

Vonage is hiding something with their "911" servic

Customer service sucks at vonage. Do they work out of a garage? My "911" has
maybe india? :)
Well, I work as a Systems Manager in a 911 center, the voip issue is rapidly raising
In another thread on this topic (seach for 911), another poster said that once
Several issues: 1. Intrado is an awful mess of a company, I deal with them every
Somewhere in Vonage's literature, they note that it's ok to test your 911 service
It is called CYA.. Cover Your A**
I have another post about the shortcomings of 911 in VoIP and what happened to me,

ckoehncke posted "Everything you wanted to know about 911 but were afraid to ask It's a primal" on 03/14/2004

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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See for details.

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