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Industry Perspective: Tom Evslin

We are NOT at a tipping point, we are at a FLIPPING point, says Tom Evslin.  He’s going to tell us about the coming catastrophe of VoIP.

This is a speech about Hurricane Katrina, and how we could have done better.  The PSTN performed as expected, but we could have done so much more with VoIP. PSTN standards are no longer acceptable, says Tom. 

He provided a lot of information about what happened, from a VoIP perspective, including talking up Contact.LovedOnes.Org, an organization that mapped old phone numbers to voice mail boxes.  Family members could call an 800 number, and then get access to a voice mail box representing their old phone number.

Stuart Henshall suggested that the old numbers be simply rerouted to VoIP lines, and VoIP mail boxes.

Who’s numbers are they anyway, says Tom?  Why weren’t all the out of service numbers put directly into mailboxes?  He suggests that we, in the technology community, weren’t ready.  We wanted to help, but we weren’t ready.

We haven’t made the case that VoIP could improve emergency services.  Tom points out the fact that a drowned phone line is locatable doesn’t help you locate the person who owned the drowned phone line.  He thinks the industry ought to step up and press this issue, rather than being defensive.

It’s an interesting argument.  The model of the PSTN is to call address to address –> each phone line is essentially represented by a 10 digit E.164 address (the phone number).  The VoIP model is to call person to person.  You could design a better 911 system.

He calls for:

  • Location awareness.  Every phone should be.
  • The FTC to regulate what basic lifeline service is.  Turn the problem from a bureacracy regulating services, to a problem of truth in labelling.
  • Define new lifeline services. He talks about mapping emergency services onto Google Maps.
  • All carriers should be required to facilitate this conversion.  If customers want the basic lifeline service, and customers want that service, then the provider (PSTN, or otherwise) needs to facilitate the move.
  • Remember who owns the numbers — the customer.
  • Don’t use public money to rebuild obsolete networks. 
  • Get our solutions in order for the next catastrophe.

We have a responsibility, now that we have the best technology, to be prepared to help mitigate the next catastrophe.

And, go visit http://hackoff.com, Tom Evslin’s new blook — a book told on a blog.  It’s a murder mystery.  Sounds fun!

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