April 03, 2015

Newsweek interviews Jamie Barnett on wireless 911 tracking

2 min

Venable partner Jamie Barnett was interviewed in an April 3, 2015 Newsweek article on tracking the location of 911 calls made from wireless devices. Currently wireless carriers use a process known as triangulation to pinpoint a caller's location. Unfortunately, the system is not perfect particularly for calls made indoors in urban areas.

As 911 calls from wireless devices increased, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to require wireless carriers to improve the location accuracy of the calls in 2006. However, according to Barnett, the FCC was "not really going to grade them on how well they performed indoors because they weren't really sure the technology would reach indoors." He added, "The FCC so far hasn't enforced rules because it costs the carriers money. There is not good visibility on the cost/benefit analysis on this because there is no one who can really stand up to the carriers and make the case… Technologies exist now that can provide a vertical location so the question is how fast can the companies implement them."

Barnett also spoke about new regulations passed earlier this year by the FCC aimed at improving location accuracy. "It is a combination of indoor and outdoor calls," said Barnett. "If you boost your accuracy outdoors you don't have to work as hard on your accuracy indoors. It is a much more favorable schedule for the carriers." He said the language in the regulations asks for vertical location "when possible," which "push[es] back the issue of vertical location for years."