Demand For 'Every' VoIP Service To Be Able To Call 911 Resurfaces
from the i've-fallen-and-i-can't-get-up dept
A bill has been introduced in the Senate that would make it easier (via Broadband Reports) for some VoIP users to make 911 calls by forcing telcos and 911 call centers to accept calls from VoIP providers. Some call centers apparently refused to accept VoIP calls out of a fear of legal liability should a call fail, while some telcos that control 911 call centers weren't accepting connections from VoIP providers. If there's a good reason for them to do that -- beyond just trying to hinder the competition -- it hasn't been elucidated. However, in committee hearings, some people argued the law doesn't go far enough, and said that VoIP providers shouldn't be allowed to provide service if they can't connect 911 calls. This sort of proposal has been made before, and it's extremely problematic as more and more IP-based services offer the ability to communicate via voice. As Microsoft noted when the earlier proposal was floated, if it passed, it could mean they'd have to build the ability to dial 911 into products like the Xbox, Windows Live Messenger and LiveMeeting, all of which provide VoIP services. Taking such a step would be misguided, particularly when bigger problems persist -- like the fact that 40 percent of American counties don't support enhanced 911 calls from cell phones that give a caller's location. That's because the FCC has continually pushed back deadlines for mobile operators to support the service, while local authorities have spent money allocated for E911 upgrades on other things, like winter boots and ballpoint pens. Expanding the availability of 911 services to telephone-replacement VoIP services isn't a bad idea, but there are other, more glaring holes in the 911 system that need to be filled before we start worrying about making sure Xboxes can dial 911.