After a 5 year battle, I can finally declare victory over the incumbents telco companies 911 plans.
Back in 2005, I got involved in committee meetings at the CRTC regarding the implementation of 911 service for residential VOIP users. At the time, VOIP was hot and some were predicting it would have a major market share displacing wireline. The incumbent telcos were scared.
I was just starting to get invovled in the VOIP business and I was concerned that the incumbents were going to convince the CRTC to impose harsh restrictions on VOIP providers in an attempt to keep them from grabbing up market share.
It probably would have worked but for the efforts of just two independent voices, myself and a technician from Quebec named Francois Menard.
Though we worked independently, we both inherently understood that the proposals being tabled by the telco’s were based on old-school ways of thinking. It was the “Bell Heads” vs. the “Net Heads” all over again.
In the end the CRTC agreed with what we were saying all along; “the Commission concludes that the implementation of Ci2 is not viable due to Ci2’s technical limitations…”.
To put this into perspective you have to understand that traditionally the CRTC committees are made up of lawyers and senior regulatory policy analysts from the ILECs (Bell, Telus, Sasktel & MTS). Usually they all get together and make suggestions to the CRTC which are in all their best interests. Usually these suggestions are accepted. It’s a comfortable little system that has kept the Telcos rich and uncompetitive while Canada slips ever further down in the ranking of the worlds most connected countries (but I digress).
This time it was a little different. The one strength of the CRTC committee process is that absolutely anyone can participate. All you have to do is express an interest and be willing to sit through days and days of conference calls and meetings filled with bureaucratic and technical jargon. Trust me, it’s absolutely mind-numbing!
There were periods where I was spending more time on CRTC 911 business than on my own business.
Of course, the committee members and the CRTC (which, is mostly made up of former ILEC employees) still ignore you as best they can (the final CRTC decision only mentions us as “other parties”). But it was the only way to ensure that the committee and the CRTC had another perspective. One part of the decision in particular is almost a copy & paste of my own submission:
“[other parties] submitted that implementing Ci2 would lead Canada to a technological dead end and would result in costly retrofits to convert a highly customized solution to one based on international standards.”
There is no question that myself and Francois had an impact and I’m happy to say that we saved Canadians millions (the CRTC estimate is 190 million).
Thanks Francois, I’m patting us both on the back. Now lets start on NG911! On second thought, I’d rather swallow razor blades.
Canada’s cable companies today filed comments with the CRTC in which they release the results of a study the conducted into the residential VOIP market in Canada. In short, it found that residential VOIP “failed to catch on” and that “market research reveals a market in decline, rather than one in the throes of expanding”.
The filing also lays a beating on the other parties involved in the proceeding. With regard to the CRTC, it says “this proceeding has become a textbook case of how not to make a well informed regulatory decision”. It lays blame for the fiasco at the feet of the PSAPs and ILECs saying “The [ILECs] have kept the CRTC, and interested parties, completely in the dark” and that the PSAPs were “Similarly [...] unhelpful in this regard”.
When I was the president of the (now disbanded) Canadian Association of VOIP Providers, this is exactly what we were saying. My only regret is that it took the cable companies this long to finally wake up.
Aside from the above, the submission goes on to provide some very interesting statistics which seem to indicate that residential VOIP is in steep decline. Citing a study done in the U.S., only 0.0064% are from Nomadic VoIP customers and the number has been steadily dropping since 2007. Many of the major providers of VOIP have shuttered their VOIP service in Canada (including Vonage). Canada has only 90,000 VOIP customers who use the service as their primary phone service (the rest use it just for long distance or to suppliment wireline or wireless service).
While residential VOIP is certainly dead, VOIP on mobile devices is poised to explode and 911 calls on mobile devices can be made to work through the traditionall cellular system. Assuming Canada ever gets a location system for cell phones, this should make for a safe and effective emergency system.
Update: For the curious, I have uploaded the entire document here.
I’ve posted many times about how Google’s Android platform has the potential to forever blur the distiction between a phone and a portable computer. Now there is word that a company is planning to put Android on desktop phones with a huge screen. So why have a computer?
In response to CRTC notice of consultation 2009-129 paragraph 20, I filed with the CRTC “A Framework for Emergency Calling in Canada“. This document describes a functional archetecture for location determination during emergecy calls placed from VOIP endpoints.
Last year I lamented the fact that Polycom had stopped freely distributing firmware upgrades for it’s phones on it’s website. I just don’t like dealing with companies that make things difficult for customers for no good reason. After I posted the comments a Polycom rep contacted me to see if there was something they could do, including pointing me towards some resellers who could provide updates. Credit to them for trying to work it out but it completely missed the point.
Anyhow, I thought it only fair that I should post a follow up since it appears that Polycom has now reversed itself and firmware is once again available. And now that they’ve fixed that I’m once again I’m looking seriously at Polycom phones. Good for you Polycom.
The CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission) released a notice of consultation today which calls on interested parties to make further submissions on potential solutions for IP location determination for E911.
As the former president of the Canadian Association of VOIP Providers I was deeply involved in the process which has lead up to this point over the last few years.
VOIP providers who operate in Canada should be aware that the proposed “Canadian i2″ solution (named after NENA i2) has a litany of costly technical solutions which ultimately will drive up the cost of accessing 911 service.
** If alternatives are not proposed, you will have a solution developed by Bell Canada imposed on you. **
If you are interested in assisting with the preparation of a submission on alternative technological solutions or even just supporting it by adding your name to the document once it has been completed, please contact me directly.
Both individual and corporate participation is welcome.
The decision is here:
24. Parties proposing alternative solutions to the Companies’ proposed nomadic VoIP E9-1-1 service are to file with the Commission, serving copies on all other parties, submissions providing the information set out in Appendix 2 by 15 June 2009.
A story with background information:
I’ve recently been learning how to configure Cisco firewalls. A big challenge for someone with zero previous experience on Cisco IOS but lots of fun. I just solved my first major problem and created a page about it here:
Finally someone in the media has looked beyond the hype about VOIP and 911 and done a decent job of assessing Canada’s entire 911 system. This story in The Globe & Mail finally seems to have grasped the reality that cell phones are a far more serious threat to the 911 system than VOIP will ever be.
While I fault the article for glossing over the VOIP location problem (it’s far more expensive and complicated than the cell phone problem), it does a good job of pointing out that the cell industry has a solution available for $50 million, a drop in the bucket compared to overall revenue and far less than the estimated $150 million the cell phone providers charge (and mostly pocket) for 911 access fees.
It is unbelievable that cell providers are allowed to collect and pocket $150 million in 911 access fees (over and above the profits they already make on wireless) while a ready made, $50 million solution exists that could save lives!
Rogers, Bell, MTS, and Telus should be ashamed.
I’ve created a small how-to on how to capture RTCP statistics in Asterisk.
I was just starting to get enthusiastic again about the Polycom phones when they have inexplicable decided to slam the door shut again.
Back in the early Asterisk days, Polycom phones were one of the few SIP compliant phones around. Unfortunately they refused to acknoledge the existance of Asterisk and would not sell phones to anyone who was not certified on one of their supported platforms. And of course Asterisk wasn’t one of them.
So you had to jump through all kinds of hoops if you wanted to get their phones.
I for one refused to sell any Polycoms on this basis and instead tried Grandstream, then Linksys and more recently Aastra phones.
Not that long ago I was enticed to take another look at Polycom and was happy to see that times have changed. The new Polycom even counts Asterisk as a certified platform and their phones are widely available.
Now they’ve gone and done something stupid.
They no long distribute firmware upgrades for their phones unless you are a certified reseller.
What company in this day and age does not have firmware upgrades available on their web site?
Goodbye Polycom, I hardly knew (the new) you.