News

Internet calls may not work in emergency

By MIKE HALLIDAY

Staff writer

Earl Averill’s voice is clear and strong on the telephone, and he likes knowing it’s not eating into his budget when he dials long distance.

Recently, Averill brought his telephone and the Internet together. He uses a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system to call his children in Gig Harbor, friends in Alaska and Canada and those in the 425 area code.

But the Washington State Patrol is advising people they may not get 9-1-1 service if they use a VoIP system.

“Don’t expect the same immediate response from an Internet call to 9-1-1 as you would placing calls to 9-1-1 from your telephone,” a State Patrol spokesman said.

VoIP is also vulnerable to power outages.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) recently directed certain providers to make E9-1-1 a standard feature of their VoIP service. Companies have voluntarily taken steps to address the 9-1-1 issue.

VoIP uses high-speed Internet connections to make inexpensive telephone calls, even international calls. Averill made the switch because he was buying calling cards to dial all the people who lived long distance from his house in Auburn.

According to the State Patrol, using VoIP to dial 9-1-1 might result in callers talking to a dispatcher in, say, Kirkland instead of Federal Way or Auburn. It might even mean not getting 9-1-1 at all. Also, the 9-1-1 dispatcher won’t see the telephone number or address where the call is being made, officials said.

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