VoIP to the rescue — E911 Useless

Its no secret that the ILECS (that’s the incumbent telephone network providers like Verizon) have been trying desperately to throttle back the march of ViUP or Voice over the Internet. One of their tactics has been to convince the Congress and FCC to require all internet voice nodes be compatible with the E-911 system. This has indeed slowed down the progress of companies like Vonage and Skype as they attempt to put in place an infrastructure that can identify the location of any call placed from one of their nodes. So I thought it interesting to find this over at Jerry Pournelle’s column from 9/12/2005:

In New Orleans both those communications broke down, largely due to lack of electric power. When the power grid shut down the City crisis control center communications depended on emergency generators, and those had insufficient fuel to run for more than a few hours. Within a day or so the city officials had no communications whatever. Their telephone systems were gone, and so were their radios.

An ingenious office worker discovered a working broadband Internet connection in the crisis center. He was able to connect to that, then use a Vonage VOIP system to connect to the rest of the world. For more than a day the only way the Mayor of New Orleans had for communicating (other than when CNN or Fox News teams with remotes could briefly reach him) was that Vonage VOIP. Moreover, not long after the VOIP system was set up, the telephone rang; it was the President of the United States calling from Air Force One.

Leaving aside the privacy issues of E911, the above story, if true, suggests that having working broadband connection might in fact be safer than E911. Indeed, not only could you use a VoIP node to place voice calls, but also send and receive eMail, and video.

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