• United States

Residential VoIP? Check the E-911 capabilities

Aug 02, 20042 mins

* Emergency calling capabilities may be limited with VoIP service

The recent flood of mail we’ve received offering us digital phone service over cable (or other broadband) access speaks volumes about the mass acceptance of this technology. At the same time, before you decide to ditch all aspects of traditional telephony, we suggest you check the service agreements very carefully, especially concerning 911 and E-911 service.

Longtime readers of this newsletter will recall that E-911 has been a hot topic for a couple of years. In a nutshell, E-911 is the part of 911 service that provides information about the location of the caller in order for emergency personnel to respond even if the caller is unable to speak. Additionally, E-911 provides callback numbers.

When we received an offer from AT&T for its new “CallVantage” service for broadband, it looked really interesting, especially with the introductory pricing. In addition to offering a broad feature set, it purportedly can be supplied in conjunction with a wide variety of broadband ISPs.

In perusing the details of the offer, though, the 911 details particularly caught our eye. For starters, the offer mentions that if your power goes off, you don’t have service (unless you have a battery backup). This isn’t a really big deal since back-up power supplies have become quite inexpensive. But you need to know about it.

The important part, in our humble opinion, is that only basic 911 service is offered. This means that if you dial 911 and you have changed your location without telling AT&T, you will still be connected to a 911 call center that’s local to your primary service location.

Next time we’ll get further into the limitations.