OBi, Google Voice, and 911

Help me OBi110, you’re my only hope.

I got rid of my home phone awhile ago in favor of using Google Voice which is free. There is even a way to use your old landline phone with Google Voice and have 911 service. I set this all up around November of 2011 and everything has been working without a problem since then. Here is how I did it:

After signing up for a Google Voice account, I bought an OBi110 at Amazon for $49. This will let you connect your home phone to Google Voice (in addition to being able to use your computer to make/receive calls or having those calls forwarded to your cell phone). Google Voice will not do 911, but there is a relatively easy solution that will run you $1.50 per month. Note: You need broadband internet for this all to work.

After you have your Google Voice account and the OBi110, follow OBi’s instruction on how to set it up and connect it to your Google Voice accout. It’s not that hard and took me about 10 minutes.

Once your OBi and Google Voice are playing well, you will need to go to Callcentric and sign up for a Pay as You Go account. This is where you get the 911 service. Technically it’s e911, which seems better, but I won’t go into that here. You will need to put in a $5 deposit and a $3 e911 activation fee. Then it is just $1.50 per month to keep the e911 active. It took about 10-15 minutes for Callcentric to notify me that my account was configured and e911 was up and ready.

You can manage your OBi device through the OBi website. Go there and add Callcentric as a second service provide (SP2). Google Voice will be listed as SP1. Just follow the on screen instructions, select Callcentric and enter your Callcentric number and password. There will be a box to check to use it for 911 calls.

OK, now this part might seem a little technical but it’s really pretty easy.

-Call ***1 from your phone and the OBi device will tell you its IP Address.

-Enter that IP Address into your web browser (it needs to be on the same network as your OBi)

-Login will be admin and password will be admin unless you changed those during setup

-Select Physical Interfaces then PHONE Port

-Uncheck the Default box next to OutboundCallRoute

-There will be a big string of characters that looks something like this:

{(< #:>|911):li},{**0:aa},{***:aa2},{(Mpli):pli},{(< **1:>(Msp1)):sp1},{(< **2:>(Msp2)):sp2},{(< **8:>(Mli)):li},{(< **9:>(Mpp)):pp}

-In the very beginning of the string you will need to change the {(< #:>|911):li}  to  {(< #:>|911):sp2}

(so despite all this technical stuff, you are basically just replacing “li” with “sp2″)

-Click Submit (Bottom of page), Return, then Reboot the system.

-Next select System Management then Auto Provisioning. Make sure that Method is set to Disabled. Mine already was. I don’t know what it means, but it was recommended.

All right. So now you pick up your phone, get a dial tone, and if you dial any number other than 911, Google Voice will connect you. If someone dials your Google Voice number, your home phone rings. If you dial 911, your local emergency dispatch answers and can see your name and address on their screen (which is good if you are not in a position to tell them).

But, are you SURE that you set up 911 properly? I don’t want you to blame me if you wait until it is a real emergency to find out. Here is the solution. Call your local non-emergency police number. Tell them you are setting up an internet phone with e911 service and want to do a scheduled 911 call to make sure it is working properly. I called my local police department’s general information line and told them what I was trying to do. They connected me to dispatch where I again explained the situation. Apparently, where I live, they do not do scheduled calls, but that I could just dial 911, stay on the line and explain that I was testing the e911 service on my internet phone. They could verify the information and I wouldn’t get in trouble. (They were very specific about not hanging up early, as they would have to treat it like a real 911 call if I didn’t get a chance to explain the situation to the dispatcher.)

So I did it. I dialed 911 and immediately heard a voice saying that it was connecting me to 911 and the phone started ringing. Several times, which got me wondering if I messed something up, but I didn’t want to hang up since if I did set it up right, they would automatically send the police out to my home. About 6 or 7 rings in, the dispatcher answered, I explained the situation, she verified the info and I thanked her and hung up.

The total cost was $57 ($49 for the Obi and $8 to register with Callcentric/e911). I’ll pay $1.50 per month for the 911 service, everything else is free. Compare that to my most basic of basic phone service our local phone company offered, which ran me $25 dollars per month, and the afternoon I spent doing this was more than worth it. I think I spent more time typing out these instructions.

8 thoughts on “OBi, Google Voice, and 911

  1. I just did the same thing, but was looking for a 911 solution. Went looking and this came up top of the list. This should work perfectly, much appreciated!

  2. So I just read that in May 2014 Google Voice will no longer work with my ObiTalk device (due to changes that Google is making). I’m looking at solutions for this. Currently I am planning on making Callcentric my primary account on the Obi. Right now it is the secondary account just for 911 calls. Through Callcentric I can get a NY number for free. That way I can forward my Google Voice number to the NY number and my home phone will still ring here in Las Vegas. This way I can still keep the functionality of my Google Voice number. As for dialing out, Callcentric has a several outgoing plans. I don’t know how they compare to other service but since I make zero to five calls per month on my phone, I am going with the no subscription plan that charges a flat 1.9 cents per minute. The result of all this is that my phone bill might go from $1.50 per month for 911 service to about $2.00 per month for the rare short outgoing calls I make. That works for me, but those who use their phone more often may find better options.

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