Reaction to the FCC's E911 Decision

VoIP 911 Is Necessary for VoIP to Succeed

I enjoy your Editor's Corner articles, but I think that you slightly missed the mark on VoIP 911. Now, I do have a bias: I was nearly shouted down as a speaker at VON five or more years ago when I said that VoIP would never join the mainstream until it supported 911 (and, for that matter, CALEA, now known as CALSIS). The argument (I can't remember how many times I heard this over subsequent years) was clearly disingenuous: that VoIP "couldn't" support 911. I never was able to connect the dots on how a technology could be both superior in its vaunted feature-richness and unable to support a feature that a.) even I could figure out how to execute, b.) was mandated and c.) engrained in the public mind as a part of the fabric of telephony. To that end, I find it risible that VoIP proponents now should be catching up in finding out about 911 deployment funding and technology. Too bad some chose to wait until after property and, possibly, lives were lost, and we had to put up with politicians grandstanding, before deciding to take this seriously. I will concede that prior FCC Chairman Powell may have provided guidance that, in the end, didn't help.

Further, I feel it is a positive development, not a negative one, that the FCC is not mandating how Vonage et al talk to the ILECs. Here's why: The government is still fundamentally libertarian in ethos. Here, the government has said: Do X (which is connected to citizen safety), and do it now. If, in fact, the ILECs drag their heels on implementing X, they'll be visibly at fault on an important issue of public safety well before the 4 months are up and will have to pay the price themselves. The lesson, I think, is that the FCC is trying to offer guidance, not rules... and that may be a good thing. The FCC should be in the business of setting goals and metrics, not in telling people how to talk to each other. Will Vonage et al have to pay for access to 911 databases? Of course. Will they complain that the charges are too high? Most likely. Will they be too high?

Lastly, I do agree that mobiles should also be able to reach 911. Actually, I recently had occasion to do just that. To my surprise: it worked, flawlessly. An ambulance was summoned and the person in need was hauled away from a remote location in a timely fashion.

Dr. John Ryan

John, thank you for your rebuttal. I think you fail to address the fact that nearly 40 percent of the US still does not have wireless E911 access. While I am glad you were able to make use of E911 through a cell phone, many people still cannot. Why single out VoIP for failing to do something that many older, better established carriers and many state and local agencies still haven't done?


VoIP 911: Fair and Balanced?

Your recent E911 editorial falsely implies that incumbent carriers have benefited from government taxes or subsidies which, in fact, flow only to quasi-governmental public service administrative partners (PSAPs), where they are sometimes abused. In fact, Sprint has complied with wireless E911 requirements more promptly than competitors at a cost of roughly $20 per handset for years now, incurring cumulative tens of millions of dollars of cost with marginal customer benefit due to delayed PSAP implementations.

Bill Blessing

Bill, thank you for your sharing your thoughts. While I agree that some carriers, like Sprint, have gone out of their way to comply with E911 deadlines, many others have not. Your argument does not change the fact that a good portion of the US still does not have wireless E911 coverage and that many carriers and service providers face no threat from the FCC or any other government body for this lack of compliance. Where is the government crackdown on state and local agencies that have misused tax-payer dollars and failed to deploy the necessary technology and services for wireless E911? Carriers have received and will continue to receive federal, state, and local subsidies. The real question that remains to be answered is this: Why pick on VoIP for something that many companies and government agencies have failed to do?


Fierce 15 Flack

SMS.AC is a terrible choice for your Top 15! They are probably the most despicable company to ever infiltrate the mobile space. Booooooo!


All lists are controversial, especially ones as selective as the Fierce 15. Thank you for your input. I am sorry you do not agree with all of our choices.


Votes of Support

My personal opinion is that you are 100 percent on target with your recent VoIP 911 comments.

Kevin Anderson

Great editorial on VoIP and 911. In case people don't get what you are saying, it's like a government agency requiring seat belts but with no means to either enforce the rule or even know whether seat belts were installed.

Thomas B. Cross

Thanks for the positive feedback.