Save BIG with your existing cellphone technology

Emergency 911Emergency Calling (911): Many VOIP phone providers including Skype and TextFree will clearly state that they are not a substitute for a land phone line and you can’t make 911 calls from them. The following information is provided to you after considerable research along with numerous links which include the actual FCC links. This appears the norm for how most emergency call centers work. However, there is no national standard so be sure to verify this information with your local emergency call center. Here’s why, 911 calls are geographic based, on land-line phones, the billing address information is used to determine what emergency call center (geographically located) is connected with the 911 caller. While every emergency call center appears to be a little different, this address information, required under the new E911 (Enhanced 911)  standard, is also sent to the emergency call center so that responders can be sent to that address. Since the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 (9-1-1 Act), cell phones have supported 911 calling. Specific rules and advice for calling 911 can be seen here. Of note is that our research shows that if the call center supported the original 911 standards, the nearest cell tower location was used, and if the call center supported the E911 specification, the cell phone’s GPS location was used. Here is where it gets a bit confusing. In May 2005, the FCC adopted rules requiring providers of interconnected VOIP services such as Comcast, Vonage, etc. to supply 911 emergency calling capabilities to their customers as a mandatory feature of the service by November 28, 2005. The key here is how many VOIP companies such as Skype, get around this regulation as they are alternative calling providers and therefore not “Interconnected” VOIP service providers. While today’s Internet calls can’t call 911, the technology specified by Emergency Context Resolution with Internet Technologies (ECRIT) is being tested right now. To learn more see the article published by NetworkWorld where they assess that VOIP 911 support appears right around the corner.

Are you as confused with 911 as we were? We have spent countless hours researching this 911 fiasco. Our conclusion: 1) in order to keep rates low, Internet phone services don’t collect and pay the associated governmental tariff on phone calls which we believe is $1.50 per month per line, 2) the Internet wants to implement the many additional services that an Internet connection can provide over the old land-line phone connection in an emergency. Before you say, huh?, how about when an intruder is in the room next to you, wouldn’t it be better to text in your 911 “call” rather than speak loud enough for the 911 operator and the intruder to hear you? Or, how about sending a picture or video from an accident so the best equipment for that situation can be sent or first aid assistance could be sent back to the caller? The good news is that the ECRIT standard should soon be in operation.

What you can do for 911 service today:  First, if you shut off your existing cell phone service, by law, your 911 access cannot be shut off and should work. After cutting off your cell service, be sure to verify this. We called AT&T and their operator did confirm this for our iPhones. Be sure you read the FCC 911 Wireless Rules and we recommend this article as well.

Be  aware that you must use the original cell phone “phone” application to make 911 calls, not the Skype or other applications.

If you use one of the phone adapters discussed in this article, you can program them for 911 dialing but they will also require a service to support E911 services ($1.50 monthly). Lastly, both the Obi110 and Skype phone adapters support land-line connections so you can also keep your land-line with minimum service to support 911 dialing. A common sense solution is to look up the real phone number of your local emergency (911) response center, or if unavailable, your local police and fire departments, and program them into the auto-dialer in your smart phone. Whatever solution you decide on, be sure it works for you!

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1 Response

  1. January 4, 2015

    […] interest in these phones and their included Internet service. We mentioned them in our article on saving money with MiFi over cellular service, and how they can fill the gap for RVers who want to go up to Northern Canada and Alaska, or south […]

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