News release

Consumer Caution Urged with Internet Phone Services

Consumers thinking about buying an Internet-based telephone service should be aware they may not be guaranteed the emergency protection offered by traditional 9-1-1 service.

Traditional 9-1-1 and E911 (enhanced 911) calls are sent directly to the nearest emergency response centre. However, some Internet-based telephone services send 9-1-1 calls to a national emergency call centre first. People must confirm their location and callback number with operators at that centre before the call is forwarded to a centre here in Nova Scotia.

"I want Nova Scotians to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of using the Internet for phone service," said Ernest Fage, Minister of Emergency Management. "New service providers are advertising extensively to promote their features, but consumers should be aware of the fine print and the possible limitations. The last thing we want to hear is that an emergency call was lost, and that someone came to harm because they weren't aware of this."

Mr. Fage said Nova Scotia and other provinces have called on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for regulations to protect 9-1-1 emergency services.

"We have concerns about how calls are transferred from vendor call centres and the length of time it takes to make the transfer," he said. "It could be the difference between life and death. For that reason, if people need the security of 9-1-1, I encourage them to consider the benefits of traditional phone service."

Mr. Fage said he encourages consumers to read their service contracts carefully and to ask questions before they purchase an Internet-based phone service. The 2005 Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision on 9-1-1 emergency services for Voice Over Internet Protocol service providers is available at www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/news/releases/2005/r050404.htm .

Nova Scotia's Emergency Management Office is responsible for the province's 9-1-1 system, which was the first of its kind in Canada. Four call centres are interconnected to receive landline and cellular calls. The software used in call centres is also being upgraded to allow for digital maps that help responders pinpoint the exact location of emergency calls.

FOR BROADCAST USE:

Consumers thinking about buying an Internet-based telephone service should be aware they may not be guaranteed the emergency protection offered by traditional 9-1-1 service.

Emergency Management Minister Ernest Fage says consumers should be aware of the possible limitations of Internet phone services. He says public safety could be compromised if 9- 1-1 calls are delayed or lost.

Mr. Fage adds that consumers who want the security of full 9-1-1 service should consider the benefits of traditional phone service.

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Media Contacts:

Richard Perry
Emergency Management Office 902-424-0284 E-mail:
Jodi Sibley
Emergency Management Office 902-424-1906 E-mail: