During the recent public hearings on VoIP regulation, two members of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) raised the issue of emergency 911 service.

Primus Canada president Ted Chislett told the commission his company’s TalkBroadband VoIP service was initially

aimed at residential customers, but the reseller has since launched a commercial service.

Local 911 service is available to subscribers who never move their phones from their homes, but Primus customers who take their phones with them are at risk of connecting to their hometown emergency operators, rather than operators in the city to which they have travelled, when they dial 911.

Chislett noted 911 service is controlled by the incumbent local exchange carriers and some public safety answering points (PSAPs) cannot accept calls from other providers. Therefore, Primus depends on the ILECs to make changes to their systems.

“”We have worked on this tirelessly since launch, we have a dedicated group of people who are working on it and continue to,”” said Matthew Stein, Primus’ vice-president of new technologies and services told the commission. “”I can’t speculate today and tell you when this will be solved because it is something that we can’t solve alone.””

This raised a red flag with Commissioner James Stuart Langford.

“”I don’t want to be over dramatic, but if you were selling cars and you told us they didn’t have brakes yet, but you were giving it your best shot, we would be nervous,”” Langford said.

Another VoIP provider, Comwave, routes all 911 calls to the Comwave 911 service, which receives the caller’s actual address. Customers are told to inform Comwave of their address any time they take their phones with them so the correct location can be provided in the event that someone makes a 911 call.

Commissioner Jean-Marc Demers asked Comwave president Yuval Barzakay to comment on the Ontario 911 Advisory board’s request that the CRTC order all carriers to stop selling VoIP services until “”viable”” 911 solutions can be established.

“”If the (telecommunications carriers) were not going to sell a service unless there was a viable 911 solution, voice over IP would be dead today,”” Barzakay said.

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