Local News

Internet Phone Service May Not Be Helpful For 911 Operators

Posted April 26, 2005

— Phone services that run through the Internet are sold as a cheaper way to make long distance calls, but there's a catch.

On regular phone lines, when you call 911, your address pops up on the computer screen allowing for faster response. With some Internet phone service when you call 911, dispatchers do not get information about your location or they may not get the call at all.

"It's a public safety issue," said Bill Stice, director of technology for the town of Cary.

Emergency call centers cannot do anything to fix the problem. Getting properly connected to 911 is up to the Internet phone companies.

"This is a new issue, a national issue, and unfortunately they're having a problem in other states. It's a statewide issue in North Carolina," Stice said.

Stice said eventually the federal government will step in and regulate Internet phone companies, much like it did with cell phones. In the meantime, Dale Norris, who uses Internet phone service and has three daughters at home, has a back-up plan.

"We went through and made sure we taught our kids. This is our address. This is our phone number if anything goes wrong. This is what you say," Norris said.

If you want to test your Internet phone service, you can call the non-emergency number to your dispatch center and set up a time to call 911.

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