Washington (AP) - Despite strong industry opposition, the Federal Communications Commission is moving ahead with a mandate for cell phone and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers to adopted Enhanced 911 provisions for their customers.
The agency said it will seek public comment on new rules making it easier for emergency responders to find callers using a mobile or VoIP system.
Enhanced 911, also known as “E911,” allows emergency dispatchers to pinpoint the location of someone who calls 911. However, it doesn’t work with cell phones or VoIP systems. While some VoIP providers have set up their own 911 systems, they have occasionally failed with catastrophic results.
The FCC said its Notice of Proposed Rule Making seeks to ensure that E911 service meets the needs of public safety and the American people. The NPRM also takes into consideration the evolution in the use of wireless devices and the further development of location technologies.
The primary objective, the agency says, is to advance policies, rules and initiatives that will better ensure rapid emergency response and save lives.
In addition to proposing to clarify the geographic area over which carriers must satisfy the E911 Phase II accuracy requirements, the Commission also seeks comment on other tentative conclusions, on whether:
• A single, technology-neutral location accuracy requirement for wireless E911 service should be used, rather than the separate accuracy requirements for network-based and handset-based location technologies that are currently in place;
• Wireless carriers should comply with a mandatory schedule for accuracy testing
and automatically provide accuracy data to PSAPs; and
• Providers of interconnected VoIP services that can be used at more than one
location must employ an automatic location technology that meets the same accuracy
standards which apply to providers of commercial mobile radio services (CMRS).
Finally, the Commission found that there are at least two areas that warrant
additional evaluation by Commission engineers and staff: methods for carriers to improve in-building location accuracy; and the use of hybrid technology solutions to increase location accuracy and address shortcomings of current technologies.
The Commission said it would examine and publicly report on both issues as quickly as possible, so as not to unduly delay the issuance of a final order.