The Wall Street Journal reports that during the first several days of the crisis after Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans city officials used VoIP for most of their communications with the outside world.
Cell and land-line service was down. Satellite telephony is expensive, plus the type of satellite phones available to city officials had limited battery life and long charge-up times.
The VoIP deployment took place at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown New Orleans. A good part of the city's infrastructure had relocated there as and after the storm hit.
"When emergency power finally returned to the Hyatt, Scott Domke,a member of the city's technology team, remembered that he recently had set up an Internet phone account with (Vonage)," the WSJ's Christopher Rhoads writes.
Rhoads adds that Domke "was able to find a working socket in a conference room and linked his laptop to an Internet connection."
The first outside call that used the connection was made at 12:27 a.m. on Wednesday, August 31.
Eventually, the team was able to get eight lines running on that single Vonage account. One of the incoming calls they fielded later on the evening of August 31 was from President Bush.
I have to wonder if that was the first VoIP call ever participated in by a President of the United States.