TV Could Make VOIP Safer


TV stations could soon help solve one of the biggest drawbacks of new Internet-based cell phones.

Cell phones that rely on voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) can’t complete 911 calls when a subscriber travels out of town because they don't offer a way to identify the caller’s location to route the emergency call to a local emergency service. Thus, a Denver VOIP subscriber making a 911 call in Los Angeles will end up reaching emergency workers back home in Colorado where his service is based.

Fixing VOIP's 911 problems is a top priority of the FCC. Last week, the agency ordered VOIP providers to offer 911 access on residential phones, but is still searching for ways to make 911 work when subscribers hit the road.

Rosum, a Redwood, Calif. startup, has developed a technology that, imbedded in Internet-based cell phones, can constantly monitor local TV signals, each of which contains data identifying the geographic location of the transmitter tower.

During a 911 call, Rosum’s technology would route the call to the closest emergency communications center rather than the caller’s hometown.

Rosum CEO Skip Speaks says he needs broadcasters in each market to provide a little coordination for the whole thing to work and hopes to convince them that the points they would score with the FCC is reason enough to participate.