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12/5/2005
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Can You Find Me Now?

Enhanced 911 service, which pinpoints the location of a caller in trouble, saves lives. But it technically isn't easy to accomplish. Cell-phone companies still can't provide the service to every subscriber, even after years of trying. So it shouldn't be a surprise that most voice-over-IP providers last week failed to meet an FCC deadline for providing E911 service.

A few companies like SunRocket and Qwest Communications said they were close to 100% compliant. Skype Technologies claimed an exemption, saying it wasn't really a phone company, while Vonage said a quarter of its VoIP subscribers had E911 service and asked for more time.

The next move is up to the FCC, which in its original order said companies not offering E911 services should stop marketing VoIP to new customers. If the FCC enforces that policy, it could bring growth of VoIP to a screeching halt. Of course, customers dying because emergency personnel couldn't find them in time might accomplish the same thing.

The FCC in the past gave other telecom companies years to deploy E911 service without shutting them down. It only seems fair that VoIP providers get the same consideration.

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