Nebraska regulator worries about new phone provider's ability to provide reliable 911 service

Markets Associated Press

Some state regulators are concerned that a new digital phone and Internet provider won't be able to provide reliable 911 service during a disaster.

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The Lincoln Journal Star reports (http://bit.ly/1hGl1Np ) that one Nebraska Public Service Commissioner is concerned about Rise Broadband's service that's being offered near Columbus and St. Libory, Nebraska.

The company uses a fixed wireless service that relies on antennae to beam signals between locations. Rise is receiving $16.9 million in federal funding to expand broadband and voice service in rural areas of five states.

That approach makes the service potentially vulnerable to power outages, Internet congestion or even radio interference, said Gene Hand, director of telecommunications for the commission.

But the commission approved JAB Broadband's application to provide service in the state on a 3-1 vote earlier this year.

Damon Estep, senior vice president for technology at JAB, which owns Rise, said its service is just as reliable as normal landline phone service.

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"There's a lot of factors that can cause any 911 service to be interrupted," he said.

Estep said Rise's service prioritizes voice calls above other traffic, so calls go through even during times of heavy Internet use.

Crystal Rhoades, who represents Omaha on the Public Service Commission, voted against JAB Broadband's application to operate in the state because she says its services are subpar.

Rhoades said she worries about something tragic happening because of unreliable 911 service.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com