Thanks, Big Gov!

I’ve recently been experimenting with VoIP through AT&T’s CallVantage service for my business line (at the request of my company, as CV would save money over my current Verizon setup, which they are reimbursing).  Unfortunately, thanks to the FCC, there are some very obnoxious features included with the service.

The big problem is that the FCC has MANDATED that all “interconnected VoIP providers” also provide 911 services:

All interconnected VoIP providers must automatically provide 911 services to all consumers as a standard, mandatory feature without consumers having to specifically request this service. VoIP providers may not allow their consumers to “opt-out” of 911 service.

An “interconnected” provider is one that “allows you to make and receive calls to and from traditional phone numbers.” 

First, AT&T won’t even consider providing you VoIP service unless you live in an area where they can access the 911 center to send information.  In those areas where they can provide 911 service, they’ve implemented a set of obnoxious and bothersome rules for making sure you haven’t moved the Telephone Adapter (TA).  Every time the TA is powered off or loses Internet connectivity, you are REQUIRED to reconfirm your address with them.  This is to guarantee that you haven’t picked up the TA and taken it with you on a trip or something.  The problem is that you pick up the phone expecting to make a call, dial a number, and then instead of getting connected your call is rerouted to a voice prompt where you have to confirm the address.  Only after doing this is your call completed.  And if you happen to access the CallVantage website, the first thing it does is prompt you there (in big ugly RED letters).

It occurs to me that this prompt isn’t very useful, since if you’re in a hurry to make a call (i.e. join a conference call) you’re likely just to press “1” regardless of where you are.  And it’s especially annoying in that you have to listen to the entire spiel before you can press a key, unlike nearly every other VRU in the world where you can enter the digit as soon as it starts talking.  There’s no incentive to give the correct address, especially if changing the location/address will take you even longer.

Unfortunately, the dingbats at the FCC, in making this “mandatory” and not allowing “opt-out” have made it so that I get bothered if there’s a momentary power or Internet interruption.  Since I have a “regular” line there’s no need for me to use the VoIP line for 911.  In any situation where my regular phone line is out, my Internet service would also likely be out, since they’re both provided across the same fiber link.

There ought to be a way for people who have a regular landline available to them to opt out of this nonsense.  But the FCC, in protecting me from myself, has decided that its one-size-fits-all solution is best and that it knows better than I do what’s best for me.

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