Police Claim Unlawful E911 Call Interception
We all know at a very early age in the United States, that dialing 9-1-1 will immediately connect us with someone in public safety. In fact we take it for granted that dialing 9-1-1 will actually connect us with 9-1-1. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case as reported by The Columbus Dispatch, and several other news agencies, the Delaware Ohio Police Department began an investigation in how local telecommunications company ICS Telecom of Ohio was handling emergency 9-1-1 calls.
Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski reported that workers at ICS Telecom of Ohio have been answering 9-1-1 calls, taking down the callers names and locations, and then calling in the information to police themselves. According to Pijanowski, this not only violates federal regulations but raises public safety concerns.
To further complicate the situation, ICS Telecom also provides “hosted” voice over IP services to businesses, in place of a PBX. In this case, they are the MLTS or PBX operator, and are therefore responsible for delivering access to 9-1-1 just like any other business would be.
A similar issue often comes up with commercial PBX operators who choose to locally terminate calls to 9-1-1 from telephones under their control. But what is the law? And how does it apply?
Depending on the “carrier status” of ICS Telecom, and the definition of the service that they were providing, they may or may not be considered “a carrier”. This is where the lawyers are going to establish what the playing field is, what the rules for that playing field are, and then finally decide if ICS violated any of those rules.
It’s entirely possible that ICS Telecom, is not required to provide any of those services, as there is no legislation covering MLTS PBX in Ohio . . . yet. This is why the Federal Communications Commission takes MLTS E911 functionality as well as carrier licensing seriously, and is why MLTS PBX legislation is critical in all 50 states, not just the 18 that make some mention of it. Not to mention the fact that only a handful of those 18 actually have any legislation that means anything, and even then only a single state actually has a penalty for noncompliance defined, and not even applicable for several more years.
Reportedly, test calls were placed after emergency workers questioned what was going on, and it was determined that 911 calls on the ICS network were in fact being answered inappropriately in what is being called a “third-party interceptor” in handling 9-1-1 calls.
The investigation is continuing, and no one has been charged with a crime at this point. ICS customers are being advised to call their local law enforcement agencies directly, and not dial 911 until the situation is resolved, and a special email address has been set up at ICS911Concerns@DelawareOhio.net, where any ICS customers who believe they had issues with 9-1-1 services are encouraged to speak up.
The story will continue to unfold over the next several weeks, and it was reported that search warrants were served on 4 locations and that police officials had carted off what was described as “a large amount of paper documents as well as hardware.”
Often, it is tempting for an enterprise customer to answer their own 9-1-1 calls, and with the proper procedures in place, may provide better service. This particular instance is clearly an example where things can go horribly wrong, and a company can be needlessly put in the middle of headlines. APN will continue to follow this story, and report back any findings to our listeners and readers.
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Until next week. . . dial carefully.
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