Verizon today announced that it will provide VoIP service providers and their vendors with the ability to use the company’s Enhanced 911 emergency calling system to connect VoIP customer 911 calls to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs).
"Working with VoIP companies and their vendors, we have identified a means to route VoIP calls so that they appear in emergency response centers much the way wireline and wireless 911 calls do," said Michael O'Connor, executive director of federal regulatory affairs for Verizon.
The E911 system, Verizon explained, directs a 911 caller to the appropriate local government emergency response center, known as a Public Safety Answering Point. The call travels over a dedicated network and automatically provides the PSAP operator with the name and address associated with the caller's telephone number. The info, received by the operator almost instantaneously, allows public contingency responders to dispatch help quickly, when seconds count. Verizon says that this automatic location info is key when the caller is unable to speak or the phone call is dropped. Verizon pointed out that currently, most VoIP emergency-service offerings do not provide the emergency response center with name, address or callback number.
"With the recent and rapid growth of VoIP service, we needed to find a way to integrate VoIP providers into the E 911 system in a manner that would reliably serve VoIP end-users and that at the same time would not compromise the safety and reliability of the E 911 system for other users," said O'Connor. "After discussions with VoIP providers and the emergency services community, we believe that we have identified an arrangement that meets the needs of both groups and enables VoIP providers to offer their customers significantly better 911 services than they receive today. And, unlike proposals previously made by the VoIP community, the arrangement does not introduce new types of security vulnerabilities to the E 911 system."
Verizon expects that by this summer, VoIP providers and their vendors will be able to provide their customers in New York City with E 911 service. If the New York City model is successful, Verizon will make the service available in other locations. Initially, it will only work for wireline carriers connected directly to the E 911 system. Eventually, the service will be available for wireless carriers.
O'Connor explained that even after VoIP providers get access to the E 911 system, VoIP providers and VoIP customers will still need to provide up-to-date location information to ensure that the 911 call is routed to the appropriate PSAP. If a VoIP customer does not update his or her service location, O’Connor further explained, the 911 call will not reach the appropriate PSAP.