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VOIP Considerations

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service refers to calls transmitted over the internet instead of regular landline.  It is also known as:

  • Broadband phone
  • VON (Voice On the Net)
  • Cable phone
  • Digital phone
  • Internet or Net phone

It is estimated that 20-25 million households will be using VoIP service as either a primary or secondary line by the end of 2010.

Please review the FCC Consumer Advisory VoIP and 911 Service report. http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/voip911.pdf

While VoIP offers advantages over landline phones to consumers such as lower cost and greater mobility, most service providers have 9-1-1 service limitations that you need to know about if you are considering VoIP.

Basic and Enhanced 9-1-1 Service
There are currently two 9-1-1 emergency service standards for VoIP- Basic and Enhanced.

With Basic 9-1-1, you have to tell the dispatcher your location and your phone number.  If for some reason your call is disconnected before you’ve relayed your information, emergency services will not know where you are.

With Enhanced 9-1-1, your location and phone number are displayed to the dispatcher.  This could help save valuable time when emergency services are needed as quickly as possible.  The VoIP provider will normally ask you to provide your address information when you sign up for the service.  Be sure you provide your complete and correct address information.  (Address number (1234), Street name (Main), Street Type (Ave, Dr, St, etc), Apt No. (1,2,3 or A,B,C)).

Burglar and Fire Alarms
If you have a burglar or fire alarm system that dials a monitoring station, you may find that some VoIP services are not compatible with your alarm system.  In these circumstances, your alarm may not reach the monitoring station or emergency services when activated.  Check with your alarm system provider to determine if it can operate with VoIP service.

Power Outage
Some VoIP providers do not include power back-up and, as is the case with cordless phones during power outages, phone service will not be available.

Using VoIP in Multiple Locations
Some VoIP providers enable you to use your telephone in different areas with separate broadband connections.  However, if a call is dialed to 9-1-1 from an area other than your home location, the call could be shown coming from the wrong location, resulting in a long delay or lack of emergency services.  Each time you take your phone with you to a different location you need to call your VoIP provider and give them the new address.

IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING SWITCHING TO VOIP, please take these factors into account.  Make sure you thoroughly understand the capabilities/limitations of your VoIP service before subscribing.