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David Sims - TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist[May 12, 2005]

Vonage Changes 911 to Opt-Out

By David Sims, TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist

Tired of state attorney generals threatening lawsuits over its 911 offerings, VoIP provider Vonage Holdings Corp. said it will change its registration process to make 911 services an opt-out rather than an opt-in option, according to published accounts this morning.

In an interview with Advanced IP Pipeline’s Paul Kapustka Vonage chief executive Jeffrey Citron said the company would change its registration procedures to the opt-out format "sometime this summer," as part of an overall revamping of the company's 911 services implementations.

“Vonage is currently facing lawsuits from several states over both the advertisement and implementation of its 911 services, which some states claim are misleading,” Kapustka writes. CEO Citron said Vonage’s conversations with the Texas attorney general led him to believe that changing 911 from opt-in to opt-out was a way to make progress on resolving Texas’s issues with Vonage’s publicity material and business practices.

As Vonage has – claims to have – over 650,000 customers signed up, they’re the largest provider of VoIP. Any policy changes Vonage makes to appease state law enforcement officials – customers would be signed up for 911 upon registration – is sure to be widely studied by other providers.

"The opt-out system will happen this summer," Citron told Kapustka. "You would have to specifically request not to have 911 services [tied to a Vonage phone number]."

Part of the problem for Vonage and other independent VoIP providers, as Kapustka explains, “is getting access to the emergency-call infrastructure, a system of dedicated routers and databases generally run by the large incumbent telcos, a list that includes Verizon, SBC, BellSouth and Qwest.”

Major telco providers are either offering or studying the feasibility of offering VoIP themselves, and naturally see their infrastructure as a built-in advantage.

Citron has said Vonage would welcome a mandate to open the emergency-services infrastructure to independent players like Vonage

If the FCC moves as reported for a compliance deadline before the end of the year, Citron tells Kapustka independent VoIP providers like Vonage "might not have enough time to agree" on an industry-wide standard way to bring 911 services to VoIP customers, especially those who choose to physically move their IP phones to different location.

David Sims is contributing editor and CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.

To discover how contact centers can save money and increase productivity by making the switch to IP Telephony, be sure to attend TMC's IP Contact Center Summit May 24-26, 2005, in Dallas, Texas. IP Contact Center Summit is co-located with the Speech-World conference, where you can get expert guidance in the deployment of speech technologies to strengthen customer relationships.

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