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City of Rochester

Voice Over Internet Providers (VoIP)

A number of vendors are marketing a new telephone service referred to by a number of names such as digital telephone service, Internet telephone service, voice over IP, or VoIP. Instead of using conventional telephone service and lines, VoIP communicates through Internet broadband.

The advantages to the consumer include a potentially lower cost than conventional telephone service, greater mobility and the ability to send both voice and data over a single system. The disadvantages may outweigh these advantages.

Does It Replace My Current Phone?

There are a number of life safety issues that consumers should give serious consideration before purchasing this system.

What Happens When My Power Goes Out?

In the event of a power failure, these systems will not function.  Your ability to make and receive calls, including calls to  911, is inaccessible until your power is restored. 

Conventional wired telephones will normally continue to provide the services you are used to when you need them most and continue to function during a power failure.  This lack of service is a reality for VoIP and may worsen if your IP service is interrupted for any reason.

Conventional telephone providers are required to provide you with access to 911 even when you encounter problems with your account or in the event that your account is suspended or cancelled for any reason.  Digital telephone providers are not subject to the same laws and regulations, so most likely if your account is cancelled your ability to dial 911 is cancelled at the same time.

Will My Alarm Work With VoIP?

If you have a burglar or fire alarm system that dials a monitoring station you may find that the digital telephone service is not compatible with your alarm system.  In these circumstances, your alarm when activated, may not reach the monitoring station or your emergency services provider.

Using My VoIP In Multiple Locales

One of the functions of the digital telephone service is the ability to take the telephone from one location and use it in another location that has a broadband connection.  However, if a call is dialed to  911 from this new location, the call could be routed to the wrong 911 facility, resulting in a significant delay or a complete lack of emergency services.

Automatic Number/Location Indicators

Conventional telephone service, such as that available in Rochester and Monroe County, provides the 911 Center with the address and telephone number of the caller.  Some VoIP vendors are not providing this information.  This could cause a delay in response which may result in a loss of life or unnecessary damage to your property if the caller is unable to give the 911 operator their correct location.

Will I Be Able To Call 911?

Some of the vendors we have contacted will not provide their customers with emergency access to 911.  With such vendors, you will not be able to dial 911 for any reason; the telephone will just not make that connection.  In these situations, some of the vendors are requiring their customers to acknowledge this lack of service in writing. They also may require you to inform persons at your home or business that access to 911 is not available when using the VoIP phone and technology.

Read Before You Sign!

We strongly urge consumers in the Greater Rochester and Monroe County community to consider these factors when deciding whether to subscribe to a digital telephone service.  Ask the vendor about the items we have listed.  Use the Internet to investigate this situation thoroughly before signing on with any one of them.   Read your contract completely before you sign it.

Consider the Facts ...  The Life You Save May Be Your Own!

Download the brochure here. 

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