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VoIP Emergencies

Techweb, among others, is reporting about Vonage getting sued by Texas over 911 access. I'm going to avoid talking about the merits of this case in particular and whether or not Vonage mislead the public. Instead, let's look at the issue of 911 access with a VoIP provider.

I don't think anybody is expecting VoIP to remain unregulated forever. Heck just the prospect of finding a new tax source is tempting enough to a politician. Emergency calls will certainly be one of the first things to be regulated. The traditional telcos have many regulations on 911 access, availability and reliability. These policies don't exist with the current VoIP providers. There are two reasons why I personally haven't switched to digital cable phone service. The first is that fax service is unreliable. The second is that I don't think sacrificing reliable 911 service, especially during a power failure, is worth the $15 a month difference. Vonage is trying to be a replacement to the traditional telco providers. That should require equal protection, access and reliability to 911. I don't personally care if that sets back VoIP rollout to consumers, or raises the costs by a few dollars every month. The last thing I want is to take one step forward technologically, and two steps back on public safety. I don't think anyone will argue that 911 access isn't a good thing.

I'm not sure how "VoIP provider" will be determined or how to limit it to just companies like Vonage. I wouldn't call AOL Instant Messanger a VoIP provider in the same sense, nor should any and every product that can do voice be taxed or regulated. I'll leave that determination into the politician's hands for now, since they'll ultimately come up with one on their own anyways. Let's just hope that when regulations come, and they will come, the right people are on those committees.