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VoIP penetrates emergency calling infrastructure

Saturday, April 23, 2005

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Leading VoIP provider Vonage negotiated access to the Qwest Communications emergency calling infrastructure, allowing Vonage customers in 14 states the ability to connect directly to emergency dispatchers by dialing 911.

With the exception of Rhode Island, VoIP's 911 callers were delivered to the administrative offices of a public-safety answering point, instead of connecting directly to a standard 911 dispatcher. The resulting time delay was a consequence of the phone provider's refusal to give VoIP providers access to the 911 infrastructure. Vonage Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Citron in a recent letter to Qwest Chairman and CEO Richard Notebaert, wrote "I applaud you [Qwest] for your willingness to put the health and safety of Americans before short-term competitive considerations."

“With the access that Qwest has agreed to provide, Vonage will be able to route emergency service calls placed by its customers directly to public-safety operators, which will help save lives and safeguard property" Citron said.

Verizon agreed to begin a trial in New York City soon, and BellSouth also started "making some movement" on the issue, according to Vonage.

Vonage claims "that SBC has agreed to begin discussions on working cooperatively to improve 911 offerings available to customers using VoIP." Vonage attorney William Wilhelm, in a letter to the FCC, "noted its concern that SBC has already provided 911 interconnection access to its unregulated VoIP affiliate.”

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