According to some Vonage users on the independently owned Vonage Forum, they have been receiving emails from Vonage in recent days stating that Vonage plans to add additional "911 Fees and "Emergency Cost Recovery Fees."
These reports say the Emergency Cost Recovery fee will be 99 cents a month for each line of service, while the levy for regular 911 fees will vary by state.
The thread on which this report is cited is entitled New Fee. Woo hoo.Woo, hoo hoo. - a not so subtle dig at the music used in Vonage's tv commercials. This matter obviously resonates with Vonage users- some 45 posts have been made to this thread, and the thread itself has been viewed more than 1,300 times in less than a day.
Here's the letter in question, which Vonage customers apparently started to receive yesterday:
911 Fees & Emergency 911 Cost Recovery
In order to comply with State and Federal regulations and ensure that our customers get access to emergency services, we will be adding two new fees to invoices for all residential and small business lines, fax lines and SoftPhone lines, beginning on or about February 19:
The Emergency 911 Cost Recovery fee is $0.99 for each line of service, regardless of where the customer is located. ALL customers will see this charge applied to their invoices for all residential and small business lines, fax lines and SoftPhone lines on or about February 19.
The 911 fees will vary by state, and will only apply to invoices for customers within 5 states -- Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island -- on or about February 19. These fees will roll-out to other states throughout 2006.
Not surprisingly, most thread posters are not happy about these charges. And I don't blame them. It seems that if Vonage were only to redirect a bit of the massive marketing $$$$$s they spend on tv and Internet ads to this critical infrastructure issue, they wouldn't have to think about recovering E-911 costs.
No less a figure than Vonage Forum "Member of the Week" NateHoy posts what I consider to be the most prescient comment I've read so far on this issue. It's not that he has an ax to grind with Vonage; he likes the service so much he's even taken the time to write some Vonage User Guides which are posted on Vonage Forum.
As a result of his familiarity with the issues involved, NateHoy's tone is somewhat understanding of the costs involved, yet a bit sarcastic:
I think this is a "cart before the horse" problem, the same one that the local telcos had years back. The telcos started charging 911 charges in some cases YEARS before they had a 911 system up and operational, but in many cases they used (or at least claimed to use) the money to set up their 911 capabilities.
911 is a wonderful service, but it ain't cheap. The Man sez they gots to have it on every line in the US, and Vonage was unfortunate enough to be classified as a phone line meeting that requirement under FCC regs. Someone's gotta pay for all those gewgaws and doodads and das blinkenlights, and you know it ain't gonna be the FCC, and Vonage has already sunk big buckeroonies into setting this up...
And so the compliance fees begin... Anyone want to take bets on when the LNP (Local Number Portability) $1 fee starts? And I'm sure my local school board is salivating to start adding their $5 a month fee just as soon as enough people get Vonage around here to make the FCC filing worth the effort.