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PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2004 8:41 pm    Post subject: Vonage is hiding something with their "911" servic Reply with quote Back to top

Customer service **** at Vonage. Do they work out of a garage?

My "911" has been "activated". I asked them if they could tell me exactly where the call gets routed to. They are ominously avoiding telling me. They said "maybe state police, maybe a municipality, maybe a company like Brinks". There's no guaranteee it's in the same state!!!!!
They said it's their policy is not to tell customers this information and maybe I should "call 911 and ask them where they are."

They are hiding something. Does anybody know anything about exactly where calls get routed to?
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 13, 2004 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

maybe india? Smile

-- Matt
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 9:26 am    Post subject: Problem Reply with quote Back to top

Well, I work as a Systems Manager in a 911 center, the Voip issue is rapidly raising its head. We haven't heard any plans to provide real 911 access from any of the companies. My calls get routed to the proper 7 digit number at my center, but I don't know how they determine that. I can think of many areas close to here that have an address in one county, but actually are located in a different county. I could see those people having routing issues.
Since Vonage is not covered by Act 78 in Pennsylvania, they have no obligation to provide true enhanced 911 access. It may come to pass, wireless phone companies are starting to get with the program now, and provide 911 access.
As far as Vonage not telling anyone how they determine where a 911 call gets routed, I have to look into our regulations and see if it might be covered somewhere. I know that we need to do much more research into how this is all going to work, as vonage/voip becomes much more popular.
For me, since it goes to a non-emergency number, I can call work by dialling 911. And since it's not really ringing to 911, I'd call from the Vonage phone and make sure that the right PSAP is getting your call.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

In another thread on this topic (seach for 911), another poster said that once he had entered his info, he ran a test.

He first called his local police department on their non-emergency phone line and explained the situation to them. They were very helpful and said he could go ahead and dial 911 and tell the operator it was a test.

Apparently it worked well.

Another poster used 911 for an emergency and had no hiccups whatsoever.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

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.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2004 10:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Everything you wanted to know... Reply with quote Back to top

Several issues:
1. Intrado is an awful mess of a company, I deal with them every day. They cannot even get the proper parts for the equipment they distribute. They are one of a very few wireless 911 ALI database providers, and they don't do that very well, either. They have tried in the past to charge PSAP's fees in excess of 2 dollars per dip, which can result in huge fees on a wireless 911 call where the caller is mobile. Their own employees grumble constantly (albeit quietly) about how the company is mismanaged.

2. 911 fees are not taxes paid to government. They are tarriffs on the services you receive from a phone company, which help to somewhat defray the costs of running 911. In many states, there are statutes to determine where the money goes. New York recently settled out of court for an undisclosed, but multimillion-dollar amount, since they were giving the wireless 911 fees to the New York State Police, who were then using the money to buy uniforms and other non-911 items. This may have contributed to a tragedy where 3 young boys drowning while on a cell 911 call to a dispatcher who was unable to determine their location in time.

3. The U.S. 911 system is not old, most equipment installed is under 5 years old. I work in a small PSAP that covers about 45,000 people in an 835 square mile area. Our equipment is state-of-the-art, as is that in most of the many PSAP's I've visited across the country. We are one of 5 counties in our state who will be able to handle Phase II wireless calls by the end of the year. Our equipment is far more advanced than that of a large PSAP in Japan that I visited last year, and their telephone system as a whole is about 7-10 years ahead of those in the U.S.

4. Telephone companies do not hate 911, nor do they make bunches of money from it. There is no profit in 911 for PSAP's or telcos. Telcos handle 911 because they have to, and sometimes they don't divert all of the necessary resources to the task.

5. Telephone companies do not use "pin traps", or at least haven't since they replaced all the mechanical relays. The most common format for a 911 call is wink-start, which just means that the telco switch reverses the polarity on the line when it gets a 911 call, signalling the routing equipment that it has a call, and the router does the same in reverse to acknowledge. There are many forms of called-party supervision, which allow the PSAP to "trap" your phone line.

Sorry if this sounds like a flame, it's not.

No matter what may come tomorrow or the next day, Voip companies will soon have to face the reality of finding ways to provide real 911 access. There is a great raging debate right now in the 911 community about what should or should not be done to facilitate this. Time will tell how this is handled, either through legislation, or through some means (such as SS7 signalling) that would allow selective routing of 911 calls to the proper PSAP on a real 911 trunk.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2004 4:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

Somewhere in Vonage's literature, they note that it's ok to test your 911 service (once it's activated) by explaining to the operator that this is not an emergency but that you are testing an "alternative 911 service" using a voice-over-IP phone service.

Interestingly enough, they note that Wisconsin (maybe it's Michigan) residents are encouraged to test their service once.

I guess they foresee a potential for problems there--or there's some legislation in place allowing for it.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2004 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

It is called CYA.. Cover Your A**
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2004 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

I have another post about the shortcomings of 911 in Voip and what happened to me, but it is a source of consternation with the Vonage defenders.....I knew how the 911 calls were routed and serviced, but getting Vonage to try to fix a mis-routed 911 call resulted in the worst customer service debacle I've ever experienced. You know those stories about 911 hangining up on people? Happened twice because Vonage or their service partner mis-routed our 911 service to the wrong line at our PSAP.
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