Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Internet Phones Given 911 Deadline

Filed under
Sci/Tech

Internet phone providers were ordered Thursday to begin supplying reliable 911 emergency call service after regulators heard an anguished Florida woman describe how she was unable to summon help to save her dying infant daughter.

The Federal Communication Commission gave companies that offer telephone service over the Internet 120 days to certify that their customers will be able to reach an emergency dispatcher when they call 911. Also, a dispatcher will have to be able to tell where a caller is located and the number from which he is calling.

Her voice breaking, Cheryl Waller of Deltona, Fla., told the commissioners that "120 days is seven days longer than my daughter lived." Julia Waller "died at 113 days old because I can't reach an operator," her mother said.

Cheryl Waller said she got a recording when she used her Internet phone to call 911 after her daughter stopped breathing last March. By the time she was able to summon help with a neighbor's phone, the child was dead.

The chairman, Kevin J. Martin, said situations like that are "simply unacceptable."

"Anyone who dials 911 has a reasonable expectation that he or she will be connected to an emergency operator," Martin said.

Internet phone service, known as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, shifts calls from wires and switches, using computers and broadband connections to convert sounds into data and transmit them via the Internet.

In many cases, subscribers use conventional phones hooked up to high-speed Internet lines.

Unlike traditional phones, which have a fixed address that a 911 operator can quickly call up, Internet phone service can be mobile. Someone with a laptop who signs up for service in Arizona, for example, may end up calling 911 for an emergency while on a trip to Boston.

Roughly half of the nation's 1.5 million or so VoIP users are served by cable television companies that already provide full-blown 911 capabilities because they only offer phone service to a fixed location.

The FCC's order requires companies that allow customers to use their Internet phones anywhere there is an Internet connection to provide the same emergency capability.

The order follow months of finger-pointing and bickering between VoIP carriers and the traditional local phone companies that own the network connections to the nation's nearly 6,200 "public safety answer points."

The FCC order, approved by a 4-0 vote, requires that local phone companies provide access to their E-911 networks - those that enable emergency operators to identify the location and telephone number of the caller - to any telecommunications carrier.

Just before the FCC issued its order, Vonage Holdings Corp., one of the largest VoIP carriers, said it had reached an agreement with BellSouth and SBC Communications to purchase E-911 services for its customers.

BellSouth confirmed the deal. A spokesman for SBC said the arrangement has not been completed. Vonage reached a similar deal with Verizon last week.

John Rego, Vonage's chief financial officer, said arrangements with the three companies will enable Vonage to provide E-911 capability to more than 75 percent of its customers. He said negotiations with Qwest Communications on a deal to cover the other 25 percent are continuing.

"We've been trying to get this access for a year," Rego said. "We'll work as diligently as we can to make this happen in the next 120 days. If we don't get there, the FCC will at least be able to see we've made a very good faith effort."

Under the order, VoIP carriers must provide a way for customers to update their location and callback numbers when they travel. Failure to update that information would cause an emergency operator to assume the call was coming from the last registered location.

The order also requires VoIP carriers to explain to their customers the capabilities and limitations of the emergency response service they are getting with their Internet phones. Connection to a 911 operator, for example, would not be possible for a VOIP customer if there is a power failure or loss of Internet connection.

Internet phone service usually is cheaper than traditional service, ranging from $20 to $50 per month for an unlimited national calling plan. As a result, it has become a rapidly growing industry, something federal regulators said they did not want to slow.

But, commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said, "We cannot let our desire to see VOIP proliferate come at the cost of providing the best emergency services available today, nor can we afford to take any steps backward."

The order does not apply to other Internet based providers, such as those that offer instant messaging or gaming services that contain voice components.

DAVID PACE
Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

Mozilla: Rust, Security, Things Gateway, Firefox and More

  • Rust pattern: Precise closure capture clauses
    This is the second in a series of posts about Rust compiler errors. Each one will talk about a particular error that I got recently and try to explain (a) why I am getting it and (b) how I fixed it. The purpose of this series of posts is partly to explain Rust, but partly just to gain data for myself. I may also write posts about errors I’m not getting – basically places where I anticipated an error, and used a pattern to avoid it. I hope that after writing enough of these posts, I or others will be able to synthesize some of these facts to make intermediate Rust material, or perhaps to improve the language itself.
  • This Week in Rust
  • Mozilla publishes recommendations on government vulnerability disclosure in Europe
    As we’ve argued on many occasions, effective government vulnerability disclosure (GVD) review processes can greatly enhance cybersecurity for governments, citizens, and companies, and help mitigate risk in an ever-broadening cyber threat landscape. In Europe, the EU is currently discussing a new legislative proposal to enhance cybersecurity across the bloc, the so-called ‘EU Cybersecurity Act’. In that context, we’ve just published our policy recommendations for lawmakers, in which we call on the EU to seize the opportunity to set a global policy norm for government vulnerability disclosure.
  • Testing Strategies for React and Redux
  • K Lars Lohn: Things Gateway - a Virtual Weather Station
  • Firefox DevEdition 60 Beta 14 Testday Results
    As you may already know, last Friday – April 20th – we held a new Testday event, for Firefox DevEdition 60 Beta 14. Thank you all for helping us make Mozilla a better place: gaby2300, micde, Jarrod Michell, Thomas Brooks.
  • Supporting Same-Site Cookies in Firefox 60
    Firefox 60 will introduce support for the same-site cookie attribute, which allows developers to gain more control over cookies. Since browsers will include cookies with every request to a website, most sites rely on this mechanism to determine whether users are logged in. Attackers can abuse the fact that cookies are automatically sent with every request to force a user to perform unwanted actions on the site where they are currently logged in. Such attacks, known as cross-site request forgeries (CSRF), allow attackers who control third-party code to perform fraudulent actions on the user’s behalf. Unfortunately current web architecture does not allow web applications to reliably distinguish between actions initiated by the user and those that are initiated by any of the third-party gadgets or scripts that they rely on.
  • Enterprise Policy Support in Firefox
    Last year, Mozilla ran a survey to find out top enterprise requirements for Firefox. Policy management (especially Windows Group Policy) was at the top of that list. For the past few months we’ve been working to build that support into Firefox in the form of a policy engine. The policy engine adds desktop configuration and customization features for enterprise users to Firefox. It works with any tool that wants to set policies including Windows Group Policy.
  • any.js
    Thanks to Ms2ger web-platform-tests is now even more awesome (not in the American sense). To avoid writing HTML boilerplate, web-platform-tests supports .window.js, .worker.js, and .any.js resources, for writing JavaScript that needs to run in a window, dedicated worker, or both at once. I very much recommend using these resource formats as they ease writing and reviewing tests and ensure APIs get tested across globals.
  • Alex Gibson: My fifth year working at Mozilla
    Today marks my fifth year working for Mozilla! This past year has been both fun and frantic, and overall was a really good year for both Mozilla and Firefox. Here’s a run down a few of the things I got to work on.

Fedora Workstation 28 Coming Soon

  • Warming up for Fedora Workstation 28
    Been some time now since my last update on what is happening in Fedora Workstation and with current plans to release Fedora Workstation 28 in early May I thought this could be a good time to write something. As usual this is just a small subset of what the team has been doing and I always end up feeling a bit bad for not talking about the avalanche of general fixes and improvements the team adds to each release.
  • Fedora Workstation 28 Is Shaping Up To Be Another Terrific Update
    Fedora Workstation 28 is shaping up to be another compelling update for those that are fans of this bleeding-edge Red Hat sponsored Linux distribution. I've been running Fedora Workstation 28 snapshots on a few laptops and test machines here and am quite happy with how it's shaped up as another Fedora release that delivers not only the latest features, but doing so in a seemingly sane and stable manner: I haven't encountered any problems unlike some of the past notorious Fedora releases from years ago. Overall, I am quite excited for next month's Fedora 28 release and will be upgrading my main production system to it.

Android Leftovers

Configuring local storage in Linux with Stratis

Configuring local storage is something desktop Linux users do very infrequently—maybe only once, during installation. Linux storage tech moves slowly, and many storage tools used 20 years ago are still used regularly today. But some things have improved since then. Why aren't people taking advantage of these new capabilities? This article is about Stratis, a new project that aims to bring storage advances to all Linux users, from the simple laptop single SSD to a hundred-disk array. Linux has the capabilities, but its lack of an easy-to-use solution has hindered widespread adoption. Stratis's goal is to make Linux's advanced storage features accessible. Read more