FCC Commissioners Say Wireless Carriers Got Over on 911 Location Requirements

Mobile phone with 911 emergency number over white

Rather Than Requiring Carriers to Certify This Year, FCC Kicks the Can Down the Road

FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington say that a deal the agency cut with the nation’s three largest wireless carriers relieves them of public safety obligations regarding 911 vertical location information.

Last week, the FCC reached settlements with AT&T [T], T-Mobile [TMUS] and Verizon [VZ] that require the carriers to start providing wireless 911 callers’ z-axis location information to call centers within seven days; to implement a compliance plan that includes specific testing, reporting, and public interest conditions; and to pay a $100,000 settlement amount, the agency said.

Verizon e-911 (Photo: Verizon)

“So we were surprised and disappointed to learn through a news release that FCC leadership decided to relieve wireless carriers of their certification requirement. 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. This agreement, negotiated without any input from our offices, is a bad deal for public safety,” the commissioners said in a joint statement.

In 2015, the FCC adopted rules to improve location information for 911 wireless calls. “ Those rules required nationwide wireless providers to deploy dispatchable location or meet certain z-axis location accuracy requirements in the nation’s largest 25 markets by April 3, 2021, and to certify to such deployment by June 2, 2021,” the FCC said.

However, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon sought an extension of the deadlines because of challenges with testing z-axis solutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC said.  The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, after inquiry into the carriers’ compliance with the deadlines, reached a settlement “that resolve the investigations,” the FCC said.

These commitments extend beyond the twenty-five largest metropolitan areas required under FCC rules, the agency said.  “Six years is too long to wait for 911 vertical location information that can save lives,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in a prepared statement. “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. They also ensure that we are improving our 911 location accuracy capabilities everywhere in the country and not just in the top 25 markets.”

Key Takeaways:

  • This 911 location enhancement process has been contentious from the beginning.


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