Internet phone users face 911 problems

More and more people are using Internet phones, but some users are facing unexpected delays when making emergency 911 calls.

Internet phones have become a very popular way to reach people, but callers mayexperience problems with the911 service that comes with it.

Someusers of voice-over-internetprotocol (VOiP) telephone services —which use a high-speed internet connection to place calls instead of a traditional telephone network — could encounter dangerous delays when making 911 calls.

With a regular phone network,911 calls godirectly to the right911 dispatch centre. Furthermore,each callprovides automatic address and telephone number information to make certain help will find callers, even if they are not able to speak.

These 911 features aren't available withinternet telephone services.

With internet phones, 911 calls go first to a third-party call centre operator,before being transferred to dispatchers in their locationbased on informationusers provide when they sign up for the services. That means callers may be sent to the wrong dispatcher if their personalinformation has not been updated with the internet service provider.

As well, if a caller is unable to speak, or if the call is disconnected, the operator may not have automatic location information to give to911dispatchers.

In oneincident, it took dispatchers 20 minutes to figure out where to send paramedics for a seven-month old baby who was sick, the CBC has learned.

These technical limitationsprompted Toronto Emergency Services to issuea public safety advisory to users Thursday.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said it is studying the recommendations that were submitted to the telecommunications regulator several weeks ago relating to internet 911 phone calls. Itis expected to make a decision within the next two months.