Bargainphone services may not be a bargain in an emergency

Published on Thu, Mar 24, 2005
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Bargain phone services may not be a bargain in an emergency

Several service providers in Washington are now offering Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service.This service allows consumers access to voice services using their Internet Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) connection, and no longer needs a dedicated telephone line to make phone calls.  Many plans also provide long distance service at no charge.

Washington state attorney general Rob McKenna encourages consumers interested in purchasing VoIP phone service to consider the benefits and the limitations of the technology. One major limitation to consider is whether or not VoIP phone service provides access to enhanced 911 services.

Enhanced 911 services can currently be accessed from any wireline or wireless phone. These services include routing 911 calls to the correct call center and displaying the caller’s telephone number and location.

When VoIP customers place a 911 call, it may be routed to a call center other than the one nearest to them. Callers will need to be able to give the operator their call back number in case they are disconnected and their physical location for response, as this information will not be available to the 911 operator.

“It is important that consumers be informed about how relying on this service might impact their households in an emergency,” said McKenna.
If you are considering internet-based telephone service, you should ask whether the offer includes 911 service. If the provider claims to supply 911 service, ask whether 911 calls are routed to the traditional 911 network.

The attorney general’s office urges consumers considering VoIP phone serve to read all the 911 information so they clearly understand the 911 capabilities of the VoIP service.