One of the fallacies about Voice over Internet Protocol services, such as Vonage, is that 911 emergency service is not available. Only in the rarest instances is that not true for customers who use the Vonage service as their home phone system.
911 emergency service for Vonage customers works slightly differently than for regular land-line telephone customers. For most Vonage subscribers near metropolitan areas, E911 service is available and for most everyone else who isn’t in the most rural parts of the country, basic 911 service is available.
E911, or enhanced 911, automatically provides caller identification and location to the dispatcher who receives the call at the nearest Public Safety Answering Point to where the call originated. This is why Vonage asks for its subscribers to sign a form during registration that asks for where the street address where the system will be installed. When a subscribers dials 911 in an enhanced area, Vonage will automatically send the location information to the PSAP.
A subscriber must fill out an address for every Vonage line they use, and also must update their own information if they move and choose to continue their Vonage subscription. This is easy to do on the customer’s online account.
According to the FCC, enhanced 911 is available in 96 percent of the country, so most of Vonage’s subscribers will have their information sent to their local PSAP.
Most other locations in the country have basic 911 service. This means that although their call will be connected to a Public Safety Answering Point, the PSAP has not been upgraded to accept automatic information about the caller’s location. If this is the case, the Vonage customer should be ready to give a name and street address where the call is coming from to the emergency dispatcher.
If the caller had only a regular land-line telephone in a basic 911 area, they also may have to give the same information to the dispatcher as well.
For the few customers who are outside of any 911 service, or for customers of Vonage’s V-Phone service, their emergency call will be delivered to Vonage’s national emergency call center. They will ask for the same information that a basic 911 dispatcher will ask for, and then forward the information to the correct PSAP. Also, Vonage’s system will not work in the event of a power failure.
Except for having to give a street address during registration, 911 service will work no different for almost all Vonage subscribers than it would for a traditional phone service.