I Learned More About 911 The Other Day

One of the neat things about having a blog is getting feedback that actually teaches me something.  I got a note from Brad Hugg that explained some stuff on 911 after I posted about the struggle I was having with Vonage and 911.  Following are Brad’s comments, which are worthy of posting if only that he has a great first name.

Back in 1995, I was one of two founding partners in a company called 911 Datamaster. We provided local PC/LAN based databases for 911 systems. Think of it this way, SCC Communications/Intrado provided data warehousing and database services for the Regional Bell Operating Companies (US West, PacBell, et al) and we provided the same service on a local basis to everyone else that wanted/needed to maintain local control over the 911 database….(an interesting side note for you is that a lot of Alaska landlines are actually covered by my old data base). Local phone companies, CLEC’s, military bases, nuclear facilities, etc. all were mandated by law to provide 911 services if they were going to provide local dial-tone. Before the Telecommunications Act of ’96, 911 services were farmed out to the Bell companies, and then eventually to Intrado. All we did was provide the same class of services to an entirely new market segment…nice opportunity!

Now fast forward to cell phones. Initially the entire industry was up in arms because all Automatic Location Identification (ALI) was based upon info sent to the appropriate router and database from a land line. There is an organization called the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) that attempts to set industry standards for hardware, software, and information exchanges. I was part of the committee that helped draft ALI database standards for wireless carriers and through the use of tower triangulation and geolocation, wireless 911 calls are all pretty much under control. I suspect (I’ve been out of this business since 1993) the same thing is happening with the Internet based providers. We were talking about the challenges Internet telephony would present in NENA as far back as 1998. It looks like an industry standard was just published this past December to work out all the kinks that new technologies have created in the 911 business. There are numerous links on NENA’s homepage that discuss the pains you’re going through right now. www.nena.org.

Thanks Brad.

  • There is activity on the regulatory front, at least, there’s a joint task force between NARUC and the FCC covering enforcement of the e911 order.


  • I have to admit I still scratch my head over this a bit. I’m a Vonage customer at home, and the e911 is working. However, I’m old enough (and from a town small enough) to remember when there was NO 911 for anyone. The city gov’t sent out stickers, magnets, etc., with the regular, seven-digit phone numbers of the police department, fire department, etc. If we needed them, we dialed (and I do mena dialed) and gave the address.

    I’m all in favor if advances in technology, and 911 service is certainly beneficial, but I’m not in favor of holding up the ability to have telephone functionality for less just because of a potential hiccup. Should people that are more vulnerable (e.g., elderly people, etc.) perhaps not move yet? Maybe, but let customers decide what’s important. I’m much happier sending Vonage about $16 each month vs. more like $40 for the same service from Qwest or Comcast. For me, I’ll take the savings over e911 — if that’s the choice.

    Seems that if 911 is that important to enough customers, someone will solve the issue and use it as a competitive advantage/USP. That’s capitalism.

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