Create Problems for 911 Access
This information comes from the
The ability to access emergency
services by dialing 911 is a vital component of public safety and
emergency preparedness. Recent reports of consumersí inability to access
life-saving emergency services while using Voice over Internet Protocol
(VoIP) services have highlighted a critical public safety gap. The
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken steps to close this
gap by imposing Enhanced 911 (E911) obligations on providers of
ďinterconnectedĒ VoIP services, i.e., VoIP services that allow users
generally to receive calls from and terminate calls to the public
switched telephone network (PSTN), including wireless phone networks.
E911 systems automatically provide a 911 callerís call back number and,
in most cases, location information to emergency service personnel.
Interconnected VoIP Service?
Interconnected VoIP service allows you to make and receive calls to and
from traditional phone numbers using a high-speed (broadband) Internet
connection (i.e., DSL, cable modem or broadband wireless technology). It
can be used in place of traditional phone service. Typically,
interconnected VoIP technology works by either placing an adapter
between a traditional phone and broadband connection, or by using a
special VoIP phone that connects directly to your computer or Internet
connection. While you may choose to use interconnected VoIP service from
a single location, like a residence, some interconnected VoIP services
can be used wherever you travel, as long as a broadband Internet
connection is available. Companies offering interconnected VoIP service
call it by a number of different brand names.
Public Safety Challenges of VoIP Services
Traditional phone services have generally associated a particular phone
number with a fixed address. Portable interconnected VoIP services
enable consumers to take their home or business phone service almost
anywhere. Because certain interconnected VoIP services can be used from
virtually any broadband connection, the location of the caller cannot
automatically be determined.
portability raises a number of challenges for the emergency services
community. The FCC has recently taken action to make sure that emergency
calls from these VoIP services will get through to the appropriate
public safety authorities, but there are certain things that consumers
need to be aware of.
call 911 from a traditional telephone, the call in most cases is sent to
emergency service providers who are responsible for helping people in a
particular geographic area or community. These emergency service
providers often can automatically identify your location and direct the
closest emergency personnel to that location. They also often can
automatically identify your telephone number so that they can call you
back if you are disconnected.
consumers who use interconnected VoIP telephone service have had
difficulty and/or experienced problems accessing 911 services. Examples
of these problems include:
service simply did not connect to 911;
service rang to the administrative line of the public safety
answering point (PSAP) which is not often staffed after hours, and
is usually not staffed by trained 911 operators;
service rang to the correct line of the PSAP, but did not
automatically include the consumerís/customerís phone number and/or
Customer must provide certain information (such as location
information) in order for the VoIP provider to set up 911 service,
but failed to do so (some customers claimed that 911 warnings were
hidden in pages of Terms and Conditions);
Customer moved VoIP service (phone number can be used anywhere the
customer has a broadband connection);
service did not work during a power outage;
service did not work when the broadband connection (cable modem or
DSL) went down or was congested.
The FCC is
working to alleviate these problems and the risks to public safety posed
by interconnected VoIP services by requiring the following:
interconnected VoIP providers must automatically provide 911
services to all customers as a standard, mandatory feature without
customers having to specifically request this service. VoIP
providers may not allow their customers to ďopt-outĒ of 911 service.
an interconnected VoIP service provider can activate a new
customerís service, the provider must obtain from the customer the
physical location at which the service will first be used, so that
emergency services personnel will be able to locate callers who dial
911. Interconnected VoIP providers must also provide one or more
easy ways for all customers to update the physical location they
have registered with the provider, if it changes.
Interconnected VoIP providers must transmit all 911 calls, as
well as a callback number and the callerís registered physical
location, to the appropriate emergency services call center or local
Interconnected VoIP providers must take appropriate action to ensure
that their customers have a clear understanding of the limitations,
if any, of their 911 service. All providers must specifically advise
new and existing subscribers, prominently and in plain language, of
the circumstances under which 911 service may not be available
through the interconnected VoIP service or may be in some way
limited by comparison to traditional 911 service. They must
distribute labels to all subscribers warning subscribers if 911
service may be limited or not available and instructing subscribers
to place the labels on and/or near the equipment used in conjunction
with the interconnected VoIP service.
Interconnected VoIP service providers must obtain affirmative
acknowledgement from all existing customers that they are aware of
and understand the limitations of their 911 service.
some areas, emergency service providers are not capable of receiving
or processing the location information or call back number that is
automatically provided with 911 calls. In those areas,
interconnected VoIP service providers must ensure that the call is
routed to the appropriate public safety answering point.
for VoIP Subscribers
have or are thinking of subscribing to an interconnected VoIP service,
Provide your accurate physical address to your interconnected VoIP
service provider to ensure that emergency services can be quickly
dispatched to your location.
familiar with your interconnected VoIP service providerís procedures
for updating your address, and promptly update address information
in the event of a change.
clear understanding of any limitations of your 911 service.
children, babysitters, and visitors about your interconnected VoIP
service and its 911 limitations, if any.
power is out or your broadband connection is down, be aware that
your interconnected VoIP service may also be out. Consider
installing a backup power supply, maintaining a traditional phone
line and analog phone, or having a cellular phone as a backup.
have questions about whether the phone service you are receiving is
an interconnected VoIP service, contact your service provider for
more information about interconnected VoIP and 911 or about VoIP in
You can also contact the FCCís Consumer Call Center at 1-888-CALL-FCC
(1-888-225-5322), or a TTY telephone call to 1-888-TELL-FCC
This information is from the
Verify that you can access
9-1-1 with your phone. Check your service providerís Web site for
emergency calling features. Links for some providers are found on this
Be sure to keep your
registered location current with your VoIP provider.
If the power is out, your
VoIP service may be out too. Consider purchasing a back up power supply.
If you travel with your
VoIP adapter, be sure to update your registered location with your
service provider. The time it takes to process the update can vary
considerably. Therefore, when traveling, if you need
9-1-1 service, use another phone.
babysitters, and visitors about your VoIP service.
Post your address and call
back phone number near your phone.
It is a good idea to know
what police, fire or sheriff's department is responsible for your 9-1-1
call and have their phone number on hand to provide to the call taker.
Consider keeping a land
line phone for accessing
9-1-1 emergency services.
Burglar alarms, fax
machines, satellite TV, and DVRs often rely on analog modems. Check with
your VoIP provider to determine if their service supports analog modems.