Legal Alerts Feb 12, 2015

New Rules on Location of Wireless 911 Calls

FCC Wants Technology Transmitting Location of Indoor 911 Calls from Cell Phones

New Rules on Location of Wireless 911 Calls

For the first time, FCC regulations will cover location of 911 calls placed within buildings.

Historically, the FCC’s requirements for accuracy in determining and transmitting the location of wireless 911 calls were based on calls placed outdoors. Since most wireless phone calls are now made indoors, and most 911 calls now come from wireless phones, it is critical that these 911 calls communicate location with the three-dimensional accuracy that first responders need and citizens expect. The new rules also strengthen current regulations for calls placed outdoors. (For most of the past 50 years, accurate location of wire telephone calls was achieved through databases correlating wire telephone numbers with the fixed street addresses of the wire-connected phones.)

Within two years, all wireless providers will be required to make available to Public Safety Answering Points either a latitude-longitude location within 50 meters or a “dispatchable” location (which includes not only an address, but a floor, suite or apartment number — where appropriate) for at least 40 percent of all wireless 911 calls, with this percentage to increase over time.

Additionally, over the next nine years, carriers in the top 50 Cellular Market Areas will be required to deploy technology to identify the vertical location of wireless 911 calls, either via a location technology or a technology that identifies height from the ground.

Wireless providers will be required to certify in 2018, and again in 2021, that they have deployed compliant technology to sufficiently improve indoor location accuracy.

The rules mostly follow the Roadmap for Improving E911 Location Accuracy agreed to in November 2014 by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, the National Emergency Number Association and the four national wireless providers (AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile USA and Verizon), as well as comments submitted to the FCC by the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents most smaller U.S. wireless providers. However, some public safety commenters argued that the new rules were weaker than those proposed in the original call for comment.

The report and order are available by clicking here, and the notice of proposed rulemaking can be found by clicking here.

The FCC is involved in many significant proceedings relating to the intersections of public safety and information technology. Municipalities interested in learning about this or related FCC proceedings are welcome to contact one of the attorney authors of this legal alert listed to the right in the firm’s Telecommunications group, or your BB&K attorney.

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Disclaimer: BB&K legal alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

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