FCC settlement on 911 calls is ‘a bad deal for public safety,’ Commissioners say


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — An FCC agreement could baffle efforts to save the lives of thousands of 911 callers and first responders according to a statement from two FCC commissioners.

On June 3, the FCC announced agreements with America’s three largest mobile phone providers — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — to include location information with 911 calls made nationwide.

“In an emergency, every second counts. That’s why the FCC adopted rules in 2015 that can save lives by helping first responders quickly locate 911 callers,” FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington in a written statement, said. “Through a series of decisions, the FCC required wireless carriers to identify the location of 911 callers within 3 vertical meters for 80% of all covered
calls by April of this year.”

The deal called for changes to be completed by April 3, 2021 and certified by June 2, 2021 but ultimately fell short after challenges with testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So the FCC and service providers reached a settlement — each company would start providing wireless 911 callers’ vertical location information to 911 call centers within seven days and pay a $100,000 settlement amount.

But Carr and Simington said the agreement “is a bad deal for public safety,” adding “the FCC is letting wireless carriers off the hook in exchange for $100,000 and a promise to provide whatever vertical location information they may have—however inaccurate it may be.”

But FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel disagreed.

“These settlements accomplish what has evaded the agency for too long: they ensure that the FCC, public safety, and wireless carriers work together to immediately start delivering this information to first responders without further delay.

She adds the FCC is also improving 911 location accuracy capabilities across country, not just in the top 25 markets originally agreed upon.

In Pennsylvania, the Wolf Administration announced the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to upgrade the state’s 911 system to a next generation platform.

“Next Generation 911 will enable Pennsylvania’s 911 system to keep pace with the technology people are using every day,” PEMA Director Randy Padfield said.

The initiative enhances the speed and accuracy of 911 call delivery and facilitating the availability of text-to-911 statewide among others.

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