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Burning down the house, VoIP-style

While VoIP offers consumers cheaper phone service, one issue that has cropped up repeatedly is its spotty connection to emergency services, specifically 911.


Phone companies have been working on plans to set up an electronic version of 911, but have not yet come up with a complete answer. The Federal Communications Commission has threatened to prevent customers from signing up for VoIP service until a plan is in place.

And even if the Internet telephone service is compliant, there may still be glitches.

A Minnesota man is charging that VoIP operator Vonage put him on hold when he called 911 to report that his house was on fire. Rescue crews were eventually called to the scene, but were unable to save the house. No one was hurt in the blaze.

Blog community response:

"This is why VOIP is a gadget, not a utility. Frankly, I can't believe companies who bungle such an important part of phone service are allowed to do business."

"I'm a Vonage user and I love the service. But let's make no mistake - I also keep my land line. Call me old fashioned but all those disclaimers about 911 emergency service, the various power outages in San Francisco, and so on make VoIP a great concept, until your house catches fire and you really, really need help."

"Still, I'd rather have my cheapo VoIP service and take my chances on 911 since I hate being raped by the telcos. Though maybe in a month when my first baby is born I'll feel differently."
--VOIP and Gadgets Blog