RealTime IT News

Vonage and Verizon Call up E911

Vonage will spend tens of millions of dollars to interconnect with Verizon's enhanced-911 system (E911) under a first-of-its-kind agreement announced today.

The pact between the Voice over IP upstart and regional carrier means location and callback numbers of Vonage subscribers dialing 911 from Verizon's territory will be delivered to emergency dispatchers.

The agreement, which calls for Verizon to open up some network equipment to Vonage, addresses a public-safety concern and removes a potential roadblock to mainstream VoIP adoption.

Verizon is the first Baby Bell to sign a comprehensive E911 deal with a VoIP provider, although Vonage is negotiating a similar arrangement with Qwest .

"None of [this] would have been possible if Verizon hadn't stepped up to the plate," Brooke Schulz, a Vonage spokeswoman, told internetnews.com. "We have the money. It's the ability to buy what we need with it that's the missing piece."

Schulz hopes the remaining Baby Bells -- SBC and BellSouth -- will follow Verizon's lead. Vonage and SBC have scrapped over E911. However, Wes Warnock, an SBC spokesman, said the discussions with Vonage continue.

"Last week we provided them with a commercial agreement, whereby Vonage would have direct connections to 911 systems that are identical to connections provided to CLECs," Warnock said. "We're hopeful that we will be able to soon reach an agreement."

But Schulz called SBC's proposal "half-baked."

"Until SBC offers to sell us the same elements Verizon and Qwest have offered, we are not going to be able to implement E911 in their territory," she said.

Vonage has sustained a black eye over E911 this year. On Feb. 2, one of its customers in Houston was unable to reach an emergency operator during a home invasion.

The incident triggered a Congressional hearing and a lawsuit from the state of Texas that alleges Vonage did not fully disclose its 911 set-up process.

Other states, including Connecticut in an action filed today, are taking Vonage to court on similar grounds. Vonage has denied the allegations and said the larger concern is access to the Baby Bells' systems.