FCC 94-102 Update

December 1, 1997


Today, the FCC reaffirmed its commitment to the rapidimplementation of technologies needed to bring emergency help towireless callers throughout the United States. Under its revisedrules, covered wireless carriers will be required to transmit allwireless 911 calls (from both subscribers and non-subscribers) toemergency assistance providers operating Public Safety AnsweringPoints (PSAPs). The FCC believes that assuring prompt delivery ofemergency 911 calls, without delay, promotes safety of life andproperty.

The FCC, in adopting a Reconsideration Order in the wireless911 rule making proceeding, pointed out that requiring wirelesscarriers to transmit all 911 calls to PSAPs will advance thepublic safety goals established in the Communications Act.Currently, most wireless carriers follow the practice ofautomatically transmitting all 911 calls regardless of whetherthe calls are placed by the carriers’ subscribers. Many wireless911 calls are made by “Good Samaritans” reportingtraffic accidents, crimes, or other emergencies. Making it easyfor these messages to be delivered to public safety organizationsthus benefits the public at large.

Specifically, the FCC modified its wireless 911 rules:

(1) To require wireless carriers to transmit all 911 callswithout regard to validation procedures intended to identify andintercept calls from non-subscribers.

(2) To temporarily suspend enforcement of the requirement thatwireless carriers provide 911 access to customers using TextTelephone (TTY) devices until October 1, 1998, but only fordigital systems. This extra time will allow the wireless industry(working with organizations representing individuals with hearingand speech disabilities) to overcome technical barriers andcompatibility problems before fully implementing solutions forTTY users on digital wireless systems. Carriers must make everyreasonable effort to notify current and potential subscribersthat digital wireless phones are not currently compatible withTTY devices, and industry associations and consumer groups willreport to the FCC on the progress in making such systemscompatible.

(3) To change the definition of “covered SpecializedMobile Radio (SMR) carriers” for 911 purposes to includeonly providers of real-time, two-way interconnected voice servicethe networks of which utilize intelligent switching capabilityand offer seamless handoff to customers, and to extend thisdefinition to broadband Personal Communications Services (PCS)and cellular as well as SMR providers.

The FCC also reemphasized that its rules are intended to betechnology-neutral, and to encourage efficient and effectivetechnologies to report the location of wireless handsets, themost important Enhanced 911 (E911) feature both for those seekinghelp in emergencies and for the public safety organizations thatrespond to emergency calls.

The FCC upheld its decisions to require that, as ofApril 1, 1998, covered carriers be able to provideautomatic number identification (ANI) and cell site informationfor 911 calls to the PSAP. The FCC indicated that the provisionof ANI as part of the Phase I deployment of E911 would providevaluable information and would assist emergency responses both byidentifying the base station receiving the call and by permittingcall back if the call is disconnected. The Commission urged thewireless industry to continue efforts to evaluate and developcall back capabilities for calls from non-validated callers, andstated that it will revisit this issue in later stages of theproceeding.

The FCC also upheld its schedule for Phase II of E911. EffectiveOctober 1, 2001, covered carriers will be required toidentify the location of mobile units making 911 calls within aradius of no more than 125 meters.

In adopting the E911 First Report and Order, on June 12, 1996,the FCC recognized the importance of improving the quality andreliability of 911 services available to wireless callers,particularly by providing the type of location information forwireless 911 calls that is currently available in mostcommunities in the form of wireline E911. The FCC adoptedrequirements that wireless carriers forward all 911 calls,without user validation, from handsets which transmit a codeidentification. This approach was intended to ensure 911 accessto as many wireless callers as possible without blocking or callprocessing delay. The FCC believed that this approach wouldensure that virtually all subscribing customers — includingroamers — would be able to place and complete 911 calls easilyin emergencies, thus meeting one of the FCC’s principalobjectives in this rule making. The FCC recognized that somenon-subscribers could obtain 911 access under this approach. Therules as adopted also permitted PSAPs to choose to receive all911 calls, regardless of code identification. Further, the rulesestablished a schedule for wireless carriers to implement E911capability, subject to requirements that local PSAPs be capableof receiving and using E911 service and that a cost recoverymechanism is in place for the local jurisdiction or state.

In its reconsideration decision, the Commission eliminated thecode identification provision and PSAP choice, while generallyreaffirming E911 requirements and schedules. The requirement thatall 911 calls be passed and certain other rule changes willbecome effective upon publication of the revised rules in theFederal Register.

Action by the Commission December 1, 1997, by MemorandumOpinion and Order (FCC 97-402). Chairman Kennard, CommissionersNess, Furchtgott-Roth, Powell, and Tristani, with ChairmanKennard and Commissioner Tristani issuing separate statements.



News Media contact: Audrey Spivack at (202) 418-0654 or JodieBuenning at (202) 418-7272

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau contact: Won Kim or DanGrosh at (202) 418-1310.

Separate Statement of Chairman William E. Kennard,Revision of the FCC’s Rules to Ensure Compatibility withEnhanced 911 Emergency Calling Systems, CC Docket 94-102,Memorandum Opinion and Order December 1, 1997.

Today, the FCC reaffirmed its commitment to the rapidimplementation of technologies needed to bring emergency help towireless callers throughout the United States. In view of theimportance of this action for public safety, I want to take thisopportunity to state my commitment to ensuring that wirelesscallers are able to reach emergency services when they need them,and to ensuring that, as soon as possible, wireless 911 callersreceive the same location and call-back benefits of enhanced 911systems that wireline callers currently receive.

The Order the Commission adopted today takes a common senseapproach to public safety. Making 911 and enhanced 911 serviceavailable to wireless callers will help emergency serviceproviders respond to people in emergency situations as quicklyand as effectively as possible. Under the Commission’s Order,wireless carriers subject to the 911 rules will be required totransmit all wireless 911 calls (from both subscribers andnon-subscribers) to emergency assistance providers or PublicSafety Answering Points (PSAPs). When it comes to helping peoplein emergency situations, we have an obligation to do all that wecan to make sure that there are no impediments to their receivinghelp. Assuring prompt delivery of emergency 911 calls fromwhatever source, without delay, best serves the public interest.

I would also like to state my commitment to ensuring thatpersons with disabilities have the same access totelecommunications services, including emergency services, as therest of the American people. While we were forced by the recordin this proceeding to defer the obligation of wireless carriersto transmit 911 TTY calls made on digital systems, I call uponthe industry to work with persons with disabilities and theorganizations that represent them to resolve the technicalproblems that make this impossible at this time. I am concernedthat the wireless industry has not yet been able to solve theproblem of transmitting TTY calls over digital systems. I intendto monitor the efforts of the industry to work with persons withdisabilities to ensure that sufficient progress is made to solvethis problem. We all must do everything we can to make sure thatno segment of our community is left behind when it comes totelecommunications and emergency services.

I am pleased that our order reaffirms our commitment to makingenhanced 911 service available for wireless callers. In mostplaces, emergency service teams have the ability to locate a 911wireline caller and the ability to return that person’s call. TheCommission today reaffirms the deadlines for the rules forenhanced 911 services that will move us closer to making this areality for wireless callers as well.

The rules we affirm respecting wireless E-911 move us closerto the day when wireless telephony will be viewed by consumers asa complete substitute for wireline telephony. Our rules are alsotechnology-neutral, and encourage the development of efficientand effective methods for reporting the location of calls placedfrom wireless phones. This is important if we are to encourageinnovation within the industry. I look forward to working withindustry, public safety groups, consumer groups, and consumers onthis issue.

Finally, the Order we adopt today finishes the task of puttingin place the basic building blocks of 911 and enhanced 911services for wireless calls. We now must turn our attention tothe issues that remain before us to refine the wireless 911 andenhanced 911 system, and that were raised in the Further Noticein this proceeding. One such issue of great importance to me isthe issue of whether we should require that wireless 911 calls besent to a PSAP by the wireless system with the strongest controlchannel signal. Supporters of this proposal have argued that itwould provide a solution to situations where one carrier has a”blank spot” in its radio system but other carriers canprovide coverage. I am committed to resolving the issuessurrounding this proposal as soon as possible, so that a viablesolution to the problem of “blank spots” can beimplemented. Public safety demands that the industry work closelywith public safety groups and consumer advocates to forge such asolution. I will make this Further Notice issue a priority, andwill be closely monitoring efforts to forge technical solutionsfor effecting the “strongest signal” proposal.

Separate Statement of Commissioner Gloria Tristani,Revision of the Commission’s Rules to Ensure Compatibility withEnhanced 911 Emergency Calling Systems, CC Docket No. 94-102,Memorandum Opinion and Order December 1, 1997.

One of the Commission’s mandates under the Communications Actis “promoting the safety of life and property through theuse of wire and radio communication.” Today, we act on thatmandate by assuring that all wireless phone users will haveaccess to 911 emergency services without cumbersome codeidentification or subscriber validation procedures. In doing so,we recognize that ensuring direct access to 911 services is apublic good benefitting all Americans, not simply those placingthe call. I note that many wireless carriers have acted in thepublic interest and already implemented the practice of passingall wireless 911 calls.

At the same time we broaden access to 911, it concerns me thatwe must delay implementation, for digital systems, of ourpreviously adopted requirement that carriers provide 911 accessto customers using TTY or text telephone devices. Wirelesstelephones have become part of our nation’s culture preciselybecause they are about access – with mobility, they affordconstant communication. This key characteristic also makes thewireless phone uniquely useful as a safety device. Indeed, manywireless subscribers cite safety as the main reason forpurchasing a mobile telephone, and public safety organizationshave observed that a large and ever-increasing number of 911calls originate from a wireless telephone. I am concerned that bydelaying the requirement of TTY compatibility for digitalsystems, we effectively deny access to those Americans who aredeaf, hard-of-hearing, or who have speech disabilities.

In agreeing to a 12-month delay in these requirements, I ammindful that representatives of consumer groups and the deaf andhard-of-hearing community have joined with industryrepresentatives to request additional time for implementation ofthe TTY requirement. The technical hindrances to TTYcompatibility must be resolved through the cooperative efforts ofcarriers, consumer groups, TTY users, public safety agencies andequipment manufacturers. While I am pleased that this effort hasbegun, in the coming months I will be particularly attentive toits progress. I expect these groups will exert their best effortsin assuring that all Americans, equally, have access to thecombined benefits of wireless telephony and public safetyservices.