Here's why I'm cynical about the Vonage-SBC-BellSouth deal

On the day the FCC is widely expected to set a timetable for mandatory VoIP E911, Vonage has announced it has agreed to purchase access to elements of SBC and BellSouth's E911 networks.The big news is that this purchase includes access to technology both companies use to identify a caller's location, even if the VoIP caller is physically not at the location associated with their VoIP account and IP address.

On the day the FCC is widely expected to set a timetable for mandatory VoIP E911, Vonage has announced it has agreed to purchase access to elements of SBC and BellSouth's E911 networks.

The big news is that this purchase includes access to technology both companies use to identify a caller's location, even if the VoIP caller is physically not at the location associated with their VoIP account and IP address.

Pardon me, but I am cynical. It seems that in this deal, Vonage and the telcos have a lot to gain.

I think what is important to understand is that the move is not meant as an expression of civic good, but as a strategy that:

Gets in two of the four major regional phone companies in "under the wire" of today's FCC decision, giving them a stash of public-spiritedness they will need as inevitable tech glitches arise while the FCC compliance deadline approaches;

Gives Vonage a big marketing advantage over most of its several hundred pure play VoIP competitors.

Sue of these facts, I still have three questions about this deal between Vonage and the two big telcos:

How much is Vonage paying the telcos for this access?

Will *any* of this cost be passed on to customers in terms of hidden, nickel-and-dime fees, or worse yet, small subscription price increases that surrepttiously include hikes meant to cover the cost of Vonage's access to SBC and BellSouth's E911?

Finally, what does this E911 access purchase portend for less deep-pocketed VoIP providers? Are they going to have to pay the type of access costs Vonage is paying for E911, or simply have to rely on third-party workarounds?

What do you think? TalkBack to us.