Where's my 911?

SBC's Internet telephony operation got a competitive 911 service up and running in a few weeks. No surprise it turned to SBC, the mother ship, for what it needed.

Net phone operators independent of SBC say this goes way beyond just preferential treatment; it's strong evidence of unfair forces at work as time runs out for fast-growing Net phone providers to fully support 911 emergency services, a key but costly public safety feature that few now provide.

Consider the experience of commercial U.S. Net phone provider Vonage. It has been several months since Vonage asked SBC for the same connection to the SBC 911 network as SBC's Net phone division got so easily. Vonage and SBC are only just now getting around to scheduling discussions; and only after Vonage threatened to, and ultimately did, have the Federal Communications Commission intervene.

SBC says it has done nothing wrong, and that Net phone operators along with police are the drag. Let's hope the FCC can at least end the stalemate soon, or else VoIP 911 will remain a shaky proposition for millions of Americans.

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    Ben Charny
    covers Net telephony and the cellular industry.
     

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