Stuart’s idea is that Bell South ought to immediately virtualize all the nonworking phone numbers in the stricken area. VoIP providers can then immediately make it possible for the owners of these numbers to reclaim them from wherever they are, set up voice mail on them, and/or forward them to other working phone numbers. Bell South can have the numbers back when the landlines are restored to service.
Assuming that Internet access is available (see below), a displaced family will immediately be able to put a greeting on their new voice mail account saying they are OK and giving as much information about their current location as they want to. Family members desperately looking for the displaced people then only have to call their old phone numbers to get their current status AND to leave them voice mail.
Even without Internet access, these voice mailboxes would be accessible from payphones and mobile phones.
People in shelters can use their VoIP accounts to make the many phone calls that will be required to put their lives back together. Although it will be hard to get inbound calls directly on a few shared computers, it will be easy for the people they call to get back to them and leave them voice mail. Not perfect but a hell of a lot better than being out of touch. (more…)