January 29, 2015

Jamie Barnett responds to new FCC rules on locating wireless 911 calls

2 min

Venable partner Jamie Barnett responded to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) passage of new rules aimed at improving the location accuracy of 911 calls made from wireless phones in TRDaily and Fierce Wireless on January 29, 2015. The unanimous vote adopted a proposal by the nation’s largest wireless carriers to use technologies capable of providing a caller’s indoor location within 50 meters over the next two years in 40% of cases. That number increases to 50% in three years, 70% in five years and 80% in six years.

"Unfortunately for millions of indoor 911 callers in need, the FCC has adopted the weak carrier roadmap over its own strong proposal. The Find Me 911 Coalition has been the strongest supporter of the Commission's efforts to find wireless 911 callers indoors, but we have deep concerns that the final rule contains a catastrophic flaw, as it does not require the cell phone companies to measure or report indoor call accuracy," Barnett, director of the Find Me 911 Coalition, told both publications.

"While the rule claims to improve indoor accuracy, there appear to be no indoor-specific requirements in it, only a 'blended' indoor-outdoor standard that allows the carriers to take credit for their outdoor location performance," Barnett added. "Thus, the phone companies can meet all of their obligations for years or longer without implementing any new technologies or finding any more indoor callers. … While we have not yet seen the text of the rule, we believe the rule as described is a triumph of carrier rhetoric over substantive accuracy requirements."

Continuing his criticism in Fierce Wireless, Barnett said given the two-year requirements to find 40% of callers means "carriers are now admitting they cannot find at least 60 percent of all wireless 911 callers today, yet this rule rests on even more promises around a complicated new and untested system."