The Truth About e911, Vonage and SBC

Everybody seems to be getting on a froth about how SBC is not working with Vonage on 911 service. Red Herring, ZDNet and everyone else has picked up on this story. I feel this is a gross over reaction, and in many cases no effort was made to present the other side of the story. Here is the email, I suspect all of us received from Vonage PR folks. (Great bunch if you ask me!)

On 2/18/05, Jeffrey A. Citron, chairman and CEO of Vonage Holdings Corp. wrote to Ed Whitacare, chairman and CEO of SBC to enlist their help in improving access to e9-1-1 capabilities via tests within SBCs territories.  SBC responded negatively on 3/25/05, as it did not wish to work directly with Vonage to provide these services.  On 3/28/05, Vonage expressed its disappointment in SBC’s actions, as it rejected the opportunity to offer hundreds of thousands of customers within its territory these services.

I refrained from writing this, because there are two sides to a story, and SBC had to be contacted for this. So I checked with SBC instead. Here is what they told me in a statement.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to public safety.  And, SBC is not the gatekeeper to the 9-1-1 system.  Public safety agencies are. Vonage needs to take “yes” for an answer.  We have 9-1-1 solutions in place for VoIP providers today.  Vonage appears more concerned about finding ways to provide E9-1-1 on the cheap.  This industry has always sought solutions through industry-standards-setting organizations.  That’s how it’s done on the scale we’re talking about.  Rather than dismiss it, Vonage should embrace it and work within it like the “broadband phone company” it claims to be.

“Vonage is SBC’s competition. Why would SBC feel that it has to do anything to help Vonage?” William Stofega, an analyst at IDC told Red Herring. “Vonage has the money to do so much advertising. They need to put the money into making the system bulletproof. The argument that these services can replicate everything for free is a bunch of crap. Vonage needs to take care of this. But once they do, it will cut down on their price advantage.” I want Vonage to work – its a service I love, and Jeffrey Citron is a great fella. I think this is a case of deflecting darts.