Industry Spotlight: Bandwidth’s Lydia Runnels on Upcoming 911 Regulatory Deadlines

December 16th, 2019 by · Leave a Comment

Two key regulatory deadlines are looming for emergency services in the telecommunications space.  Starting on February 16, 2020, enterprises will have to be in compliance with Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’s Act, which aim to improve notifications and include better location information alongside 9-1-1 calls.  Bandwidth is a leader in the 911 space, enabling carriers, VoIP service providers and enterprises to set up their voice networks for emergency services.  With us today to help spread the word about how regulations are changing and what needs to be done is Bandwidth’s VP of Product Strategy, Lydia Runnels.

TR: What is your background, and how did you arrive at your current position at Bandwidth?

LR: I have spent well over 30 years within telecom and data communications. I started out at Paradyne Networks, which was originally a modem company before growing into broadband network access products  into voice, video, and data  for DSL, where I  went from software engineer to leading their  R&D and product organization.  After that, I went to a similar role at a company called CSDVRS, which specialized in video relay services for the deaf-and-hard-of-hearing.  They were actually a customer of Bandwidth at that time, and two years ago I joined Bandwidth as the Vice President of Product Strategy, predominantly focused on emergency services and 911.

TR: What is Kari’s Law, and how will it change what enterprise networks will need to do?

LR: Kari's Law states that you must be able to call 911 directly from any telephone i.e., removing the requirement to dial prefixes such as “8” or “9” to get a trunk access line when making a 911 call. It is  targeted at MLTS (multi-line telephone systems) such as you might find in a corporation or university. The calls must be routed directly to the public service answering point, or PSAP. In the past, many corporations and campuses would route them to their security desk, ask some questions and only then route to 911. Kari's Law also says a company must simultaneously notify someone within the facility, such as by SMS text message, so that they are informed that a 911 call is taking place.

TR: What is RAY BAUM’s Act?

LR: RAY BAUM’s Act, and specifically section 506, is about providing dispatchable locations. Once again, this is specifically applicable to multi-line telephone systems. It’s not good enough to just provide 500 Main Street any longer. You must provide where that person is, such as a floor number, a conference room number.  It has to be much more specific about the accurate location at time of 911 call.

TR: These seem like obvious things an emergency system should do, why are we still working on this?

LR: Historically, a telephone number sat at your desk and that location was known. But what's changing is twofold. One is that employees no longer necessarily have a handset at their desk and are more mobile.  Instead, their softphone is on their laptop, and they move around with it. The other is that you used to have a PBX within your facility connecting to a telephone company locally, which had a central office which was tied specifically to the public service answering point in that community. When you dialed a 911 call, it simply routed to your local public safety answering point (PSAP).  With the advent of unified communications and cloud applications, the soft PBX in the cloud is no longer representative of where you're located. So the need to accurately provide location information for UC and UCaaS environments is really why the changes in technology are occurring within 911 now.

TR: Yet when VoIP was young we were already talking about 911 enhancements, why has it taken so long?

LR: In large part, it is due to the fact that the infrastructure within municipalities isn't able to be all IP and deliver this information yet.  There are 6,000 PSAPs in the nation, and they are independently run and operated. Next Generation 911 (NG-911) is about going completely IP to the PSAP, and it’s that infrastructure that would have to be in place first.  While we’re seeing that happen in spots like Maine, it’s not available in all parts of the country yet. So, until then, companies like Bandwidth have made changes to take pieces of what would be delivered via all IP network and deliver it in a format that PSAPs that aren't NG911-capable yet can still receive.

TR: What do Bandwidth’s 911 services look like today?

LR: We provide 911 services nationwide in the US and Canada to both service providers and to enterprises directly.  What’s evolved when we talk about Bandwidth and 911 is connectivity for any voice over IP call. If you can deliver IP to us, we can deliver a 911 call to the PSAP for you.  That can be as simple as name, address, and telephone number and we can take it from there. But what’s more interesting is our E911 Dynamic Location Routing product, which has the ability to provide more accurate real-time location information to the PSAP.

TR: How does dynamic location routing work?

LR: An enterprise just needs to give us its beacon points, which could be a wireless access point for example. They map all the wireless access points in their buildings, and then on line 1 they put the specific address, e.g. 500 Main Street, and in line two they provide the accurate location information, e.g. Floor 5, Conference Room 505.  At the time of a call from an application, perhaps on a laptop, it's connected to a wireless access point. We geolocate using that beacon point, and then send the specific address and detailed location to the PSAP.

TR: What other enhancements are in the pipeline for Bandwidth’s 911 services?

LR: We are looking forward to providing even more rich supplemental data for things like IoT devices and OTT applications.  To give you a flavor, one example is Netgear’s Arlo, which provides  do-it-yourself IoT security systems. When customers who use the app on their phone and see an emergency  at their home, our technology enables them to dial 911   and their 911 call will be routed to the responding PSAP for their home, not to wherever they are on their mobile device. We also have telematics applications for customers that need to provide latitude and longitude when a civic address is not available.

TR: So what’s the biggest hurdle the industry faces in meeting the regulatory deadlines for Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’s act?

LR: I truly believe that it’s just getting the word out.  We are hearing from a lot of companies, but a lot are still unaware of how they're going to do it. Location discovery is incumbent upon the companies themselves. There is a lot of interest in learning more about how to provide that accurate location information. Then, of course, service providers have to be able to use it.  There's truly not many enterprises or service providers that are doing it yet.

TR: What should we be thinking about when it comes to emergency services and the next shift in technology?

LR: I think it is understanding the safety of the employee and how technology can help that. Whatever application they're on and whatever device they are using, when they want to reach emergency services, they want to know that accurate location information is being provided.

TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!

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Categories: Government Regulations · Industry Spotlight · Unified Communications · VoIP

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