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

Graphics: Intel and AMD Developments

  • Intel Has Quietly Been Working On A New Gallium3D Driver Being Called "Iris"
    After resisting Gallium3D for the past decade with a preference on continuing to maintain their "i965" Mesa classic driver and all they've invested into its compiler stack and more, it seems times are changing as the open-source Intel team has been starting up development of a modern Gallium3D driver. This is not to be confused with the former i915g or i965g efforts from about a decade ago that were the experiments of Tungsten/LunarG for driver research/experimentation purposes or in the case of i915g to handle some features with LLVM in software, but this is a modern Gallium3D driver targeting their current hardware.
  • AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 Linux Graphics Driver Released with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and RHEL / CentOS Support
    The long awaited AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 driver update for the AMD Linux graphics driver package has finally been released, with a driver installation option for both “all open” and closed / proprietary driver modules. What is great about this driver package update is that it is supported on the latest Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS as well as Ubuntu 16.04.5, and RHEL / CentOS 6.10 and 7.5 respectively for their Enterprise Linux support targets.
  • AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 Released With Ubuntu 18.04.1 Support & WattMan-Like Functionality
    AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 is now available as the long desired update to this official AMD Linux graphics driver package that consists of the driver installation option for both the "all-open" and closed/proprietary driver modules. Notable to the AMDGPU-PRO 18.30 release is that Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS is now supported as well as Ubuntu 16.04.5. Additionally, RHEL/CentOS 6.10 and 7.5 release series round out their enterprise Linux support targets.

Wine 3.14 Released

  • Wine Announcement
    The Wine development release 3.14 is now available.
  • Wine 3.14 Adds DXTn Texture Decompression, Other Improvements
    Due to the summer holidays it's been four weeks since Wine 3.13 but it has now been succeeded by Wine 3.14 as the newest feature release. Wine 3.14 adds support for DXTn texture decompression, deferral support for MSI install actions, Japanese keyboard support within DirectInput, improvements to the standard task dialog, more Shell32 icons, and a total of 36 bug fixes. Those bug fixes range from Adobe CS4 issues to problems with Wargaming, Chromium, Guild Wars, Civilization V, Chaos League, and other software.
  • Grab a glass as Wine 3.14 is out today with DXTn texture decompression support and plenty of fixes
    The latest and greatest in fine Wine [Official Site] is out today with Wine 3.14 filled with features and the usual bug fixes including support for DXTn texture decompression

Android Leftovers

Zephyr Project Embraces RISC-V with New Members and Expanded Board Support

The Linux Foundation’s Zephyr Project, which is developing the open source Zephyr real-time operating system (RTOS) for microcontrollers, announced six new members, including RISC-V members Antmicro and SiFive. The project also announced expanded support for developer boards. Zephyr is now certified to run 100 boards spanning ARM, x86, ARC, NIOS II, XTENSA, and RISCV32 architectures. Antmicro, SiFive, and DeviceTone, which makes IoT-savvy smart clients, have signed up as Silver members, joining Oticon, runtime.io, Synopsys, and Texas Instruments. The other three new members -- Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, The Institute of Communication and Computer Systems (ICCS), and Northeastern University – have joined the Vancouver Hack Space as Associate members. Read more