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VoIP has no wires. It isn't connected to the Public Safety Answering Point System (911) and a local operator using switchboard technology can't trace it. It is a completely different infrastructure than PSTN- the Public Switched Telephone Network. Yet, the FCC and the FBI would like to apply the same rules to VoIP as it does to every other telephone service.
What would Alexander Graham Bell say? The monopoly is over for the telephone industry- so I thought- yet it appears that there is still a monopoly on the infrastructure of what condones a telephone system.
VoIP is Voice over Internet Protocol. It is not the same technology in any way, shape, or form as your local telephone service. Using your Internet High Speed connection and transmitting audio in the form of "packets" over your IP to another computer, VoIP user, or a standard telephone on the PSTN network conduct it.
VoIP technology has existed for some time, but is now being recognized by the mainstream as a viable alternative to standard telephone service. You may wonder why some would even want to leave behind the telephones our Great-Grandparents knew and loved and opt for these wireless replacements, yet the reasons and facts are clearly visible.
VoIP offers many benefits, features, and cost savings that are not offered with standard telephone service. For instance, Voice Mail, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, Three Way Calling, and Call Transfer, are often included in your basic VoIP package at no additional cost. Users also appreciate the flexibility and freedom offered with using your Internet connection to not only handle your telephone needs, but your E-mail needs, Video and Web cam needs and Web application needs as well. VoIP can offer this integration and it has proved extremely beneficial to small business owners. All of these benefits have contributed to the rise and popularity of VoIP services.
However, this technology is not without its flaws. For instance, there is a big problem with the integration of VoIP technology and the Emergency 911 system. The Emergency system has been developing for many years, based upon the PSTN networks. Everyone knows that in case of an emergency, they can call 911 and help will be on the way. Yet, not was the case with many of VoIP'S early customers. Unfortunately, due to the fact that VoIP is wireless, 911 had no way of tracing VoIP calls. The US government's response to the issue seems short of shutting down VoIP in favor of landlines. However, the FCC ruled that customers will be required to sign a statement that they acknowledge that their 911 services may be impaired due to VoIP. VoIP providers have responded by incorporating Enhanced 911 services and for allowing users to call and register their personal information with 911. Yet the fact remains, that a 911 operator cannot trace the VoIP call back to the location of the user.
Time will tell where the Emergency debate will end up. But for now, it is recommended that VoIP users maintain a landline phone or cell phone solely for the ability to have direct access to 911 if needed.
Now, 911 isn't the only problem that Uncle Sam has with VoIP. He is also upset that he can't "tap in" and listen in on potentially dangerous calls. How do you wiretap the wireless? Well, VoIP is the same technology, Packet Switching, which is used by E-mails, gamers who are communicating, Instant Messaging services and Video Email programs. To tap the phone line seems a little contradictory, since there isn't a phone line, but we all understand that Uncle Sam must do what he must do.
Where these rulings will take the nature of VoIP is anyone's guess and only the future will tell for sure. Yet we can rest assured that while VoIP continues to gather strength and become a formidable force in the telecommunications arena, that products will change, services will be enhanced, and many of the issues will be addressed and resolved.
Until then, remember to work with your service provider, register with 911, enjoy your VoIP service, and don't take advantage of your VoIP provider by conducting illicit activities because you think they can not be traced