By Ben Charny
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Internet phone provider Vonage may ask Congress and the Federal
Communications Commission to help it solve problems with SBC over
subscriber access to the 911 emergency call network.
SBC's decision not to work more closely with Vonage, made public
Wednesday, may delay efforts to fix the problem that keeps a majority
of U.S. Net phone providers from successfully routing 911 calls to the
right emergency calling center. Many of those 911 calls are instead
sent to non-emergency operators, with no guarantee the calls will
reach dispatch centers close enough to provide the most effective
In mid-February, Vonage asked SBC, BellSouth, Qwest and Verizon, the
nation's largest local phone companies collectively known as the
Bells, to provide access to their 911 infrastructure within the next
60 days. At first, it appeared the logjam had been broken: SBC met
with Vonage to work out the logistics; Verizon, the largest Bell, also
committed to testing just such a system; and Qwest, the smallest of
the Bells, began considering its options.
While Verizon and BellSouth are now cooperating, SBC has refused to do
so, telling the FCC that Vonage and other Net phone providers need to
develop a standard way to route the 911 calls appropriately. What
Vonage was asking to test, SBC claimed, was a proprietary fix. "SBC
can not agree to engage in numerous individual tests with each and
every VoIP provider," it recently told the FCC, referring to the Net
phone technology also known as voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). A
spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment.
Vonage spokeswoman Brooke Schulz said Vonage is considering asking
Congress and the FCC to demand SBC open up its 911 infrastructure to
Vonage and other Net phone operators. In rebuking SBC's proprietary
claim, Schulz said operators Packet8, AT&T's CallVantage and Verizon
Communications VoiceWing Net phone service all use the same 911
products, "so how can SBC call what we're doing proprietary?"
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