NENA Wireless Release 9/16/99


Contact: Sonya Carius, (800) 332-3911


Latest FCC Ruling Will Delay Needed Life-Saving 9-1-1 Services

Columbus, Ohio (September 16, 1999)—TheNational Emergency Number Association (NENA) is alarmed and disappointed withthe recent ruling for cellular 9-1-1 calls. On September 15, the FederalCommunications Commission (FCC) modified its rules requiring life-savinglocation technology. In its ruling, the FCC extended compliance periods forphone manufacturers and wireless telephone companies to comply with the FCC’s1996 rule, which requires location information for 9-1-1 calls.

NENA President, William H. Hinkle, noted “after carefully reviewing theruling, it is clear the FCC has attempted to accommodate industry and freecompetition here, but the real purpose of the 1996 rules were to promote publicsafety. The real losers in this ruling are the victims, and the hundreds—maybethousands—of cellular callers who cannot be found because this technology isnot in place.” Hinkle continued, “we are upset because the technologyexists today to start finding people. Getting this technology in place now, orsooner rather than later, should have been the focus of the FCC ruling.”

Not only did the FCC allow for more time, the ruling also left unresolvedserious technical issues that must be addressed before GPS-based technology canbe implemented. In short, the ruling assumes that important industry standardsthat will be developed will allow digital phones with different digitaltechnologies to use GPS-based technology. Additionally, the very common scenarioof roaming callers that dial 9-1-1 will not be found under the FCC rules. TheFCC is also assuming that analog phones and networks can be equipped to serveGPS-based handsets. That’s a serious problem when more than 80 percent of thecountry is served by analog-only service.

“The lives of Americans should have been the only consideration behindthe ruling,” Hinkle emphasized. “Unfortunately, the FCC allowed itselfto become overwhelmed in debates about technology. In 1996, the wirelessindustry and representatives from public safety agencies made an agreement thatrequired location identification by the year 2001. This new ruling extends partsof that agreement to the year 2004, and likely beyond. With more than 100,000cellular 9-1-1 calls daily, extending that deadline is unacceptable to us.Somehow, we have lost that these 100,000 calls are literally pleas for help inemergency situations. We need to remember that these calls are the differencebetween life and death—they are not faceless statistics,” Hinkleconcluded.

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