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.

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