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Vonage bows to 911 pressure

Promises full access to emergency services

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US VoIP outfit Vonage has agreed to roll out a fully-functioning 911 service for its users. The deal - in association with Verizon - comes after presssure on the company to provide unrestricted access to the emergency services.

Vonage is currently at the receiving end of pending lawsuits in Connecticut, Michigan and Texas following complaints that VoIP calls to 911 were not always connected correctly, or connected at all. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott launched one action accusing the company of "deceptive marketing practices". Abbott said the firm did not make it clear to customers that they would not be able to make emergency 911 calls.

A Vonage spokeswoman said that the E911 (enhanced 911) roll-out would begin in July and be completed across the 28 states served by Verizon by the end of the year. This is not quick enough, though, for US Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin, who wants legislation requiring VoIP service providers to offer 911 emergency services to customers by as early as the end of September.

The proposal will be voted on at the FCC's open session on 19 May where it will require a positive vote from two of the other the other three commissioners, Reuters reports. If it does get a big tick, there is then the small matter of "how the FCC would ensure VOIP providers have access to the equipment they need to route the calls to primary 911 call center lines or how the agency would enforce the requirements".

Vonage currently boasts 550,000 US users. It recently announced plans to extend its VoIP service to 100 UK towns and cities. All British Vonage services already include access to emergency numbers. ®

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