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VoIP Causes An Enterprise 911 Emergency

If you need to call 911 from the office, try to make sure your office is in Florida, not Colorado. That's because Florida is one of five states that require enterprise PBXs to provide emergency services with the exact location of callers, whereas Colorado is one of three with laws on the books saying they don't need to provide any location data at all. In most other states, emergency services may be able to determine only the postal address of the building containing the PBX, not the actual phone from which a 911 call was made.

That will change in 2006, when the FCC is likely to introduce regulations mandating that PBXs provide detailed location information compatible with Enhanced 911 (E-911), the technology that automatically tells 911 dispatchers where callers are. In December last year, it issued a notice of proposed rule making that gave states one year to introduce their own legislation. Some have (see "State Enterprise E-911 Laws" below, left), but the majority haven't, so the FCC is set to act and introduce national rules.

Impact Assessment: Location Tracking

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That's good news for people who need to call the cops from a sprawling corporate campus, but a potential headache for the IT managers who need to implement the capability. Some may see it as an opportunity to replace aging TDM telephony with a shiny new converged network, but VoIP has its own E-911 challenges. While most PBXs can be programmed to provide some location data, VoIP providers don't always know what to do with it. And forget about mobility outside the enterprise network: Although vendors like to demonstrate technology that can track users to within a few feet, real VoIP services are lucky if they can guess the right time zone.

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