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President's Call Used Vonage Link
The call made by President Bush to the mayor of New Orleans was made via a Vonage Voice over IP connection, according to a great story in today's Wall Street Journal that recaps the communications struggles of the city's leaders during Hurricane Katrina's darkest hours.
According to the Journal report (subscription required), when the regular phone lines all failed, it was a Vonage account that provided the staff with its only stable telecom link to the outside world. And when Bush called the mayor after his initial fly-by, the call came in via the Vonage line, according to the story.
While it's the most dramatic, it's far from the only story in which VoIP is playing a role in Katrina recovery efforts. Our friend Jeff Pulver is doing a good job of rounding up all the VoIP-related Katrina stories, here. If you hear of any others, let us know and we'll pass them along.
Maybe the technology's power and flexibility will change the lack of respect shown it by the FCC, which so far under new chairman Kevin Martin has done nothing but saddle the VoIP industry with old-school regulation that could hamper its growth.
But unlike some other bureaucrats, Martin has been in almost constant positive motion since the storm hit, even traveling to the region to see the damage first-hand. To his credit, the FCC has remained open for business on a 24x7 basis since last week, doing all it can to waive normal regulations (of things like spectrum use, etc.) so that emergency communications can be quickly established.
And Martin has designated next week's FCC meeting as a "learning session" on the damages wrought by Katrina, perhaps to learn what went wrong while the miscues are still fresh in everyone's mind. Credit is due to Martin for doing his best to keep the FCC from being a bottleneck in the restoration of communications.