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FCC Requires More Pinpoint E911 Location Info

A final rule from the agency requires affected wireless carriers to provide more specific automatic location information for emergency calls to Public Safety Answering Points in areas where they have not done so before.

A final rule from the Federal Communication Commission tells affected wireless carriers they must provide more specific automatic location information for 911 emergency calls at either a county-based or Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP)-based geographic level. The rule is effective on Jan. 18, 2011 (except for three sections not yet approved by OMB), and will require wireless licensees subject to Enhanced 911 Phase II location accuracy and reliability standards to provide more specific automatic location information to emergency responders in areas where they have not done so before.

"As a result of this order," according to the final rule, "emergency responders will be able to reach the site of an emergency more quickly and efficiently. In addition, in a companion Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry that we adopt today, we build on the order and explore how to further enhance location accuracy for existing and new wireless voice communications technologies, including new broadband technologies associated with deployment of Next Generation 911 (NG911) networks."

After the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International, Inc. (APCO) asked for this change, FCC proposed it in June 2007 and took comments from the industry and moved to require it, only to see the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stay its order. Work by stakeholder groups brought about a consensus to accept the proposal, according to the rule's text.

In it, the commission says, "The rule changes we are adopting today further our long-standing public safety and homeland security goals in this proceeding. First, they ensure that all stakeholders -- including public safety entities, wireless carriers, technology providers, and the public -- will benefit from an appropriate and consistent compliance methodology. Second, by making clear that location accuracy compliance may not be achieved on an averaged basis over large geographical areas, the revised rules ensure that PSAPs receive meaningful, accurate location information from wireless 911 callers in order to dispatch local emergency responders to the correct location. As a direct result, the new rules will minimize potentially life-threatening delays that may ensue when first responders cannot be confident that they are receiving accurate location information. . . . Major wireless carriers either already are subject to most elements of the ex parte proposals as a result of merger conditions, or indicate they can comply with the changed location accuracy requirements based on existing location technologies. These carriers also indicate that it is feasible for them to comply with our new requirement that they provide confidence and uncertainty data to PSAPs, which is widely supported by the public safety community."

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