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Comment Requested on Text 94-102 FCC

From: [email protected]
Category: ADA Information
Date: 08 Dec 1997
Time: 08:17:20
Remote Name:




Today, the FCC reaffirmed its commitment to the rapid implementation of technologies needed to bring emergency help to wireless callers throughout the United States. Under its revised rules, covered wireless carriers will be required to transmit all wireless 911 calls (from both subscribers and non-subscribers) to emergency assistance providers operating Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). The FCC believes that assuring prompt delivery of emergency 911 calls, without delay, promotes safety of life and property.

The FCC, in adopting a Reconsideration Order in the wireless 911 rulemaking proceeding, pointed out that requiring wireless carriers to transmit all 911 calls to PSAPs will advance the public safety goals established in the Communications Act. Currently, most wireless carriers follow the practice of automatically transmitting all 911 calls regardless of whether the calls are placed by the carriers' subscribers. Many wireless 911 calls are made by "Good Samaritans" reporting traffic accidents, crimes, or other emergencies. Making it easy for these messages to be delivered to public safety organizations thus benefits the public at large.

Specifically, the FCC modified its wireless 911 rules:

(1) To require wireless carriers to transmit all 911 calls without regard to validation procedures intended to identify and intercept calls from non-subscribers.

(2) To temporarily suspend enforcement of the requirement that wireless carriers provide 911 access to customers using Text Telephone (TTY) devices until October 1, 1998, but only for digital systems. This extra time will allow the wireless industry (working with organizations representing individuals with hearing and speech disabilities) to overcome technical barriers and compatibility problems before fully implementing solutions for TTY users on digital wireless systems. Carriers must make every reasonable effort to notify current and potential subscribers that digital wireless phones are not currently compatible with TTY devices, and industry associations and consumer groups will report to the FCC on the progress in making such systems compatible.

(3) To change the definition of "covered Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) carriers" for 911 purposes to include only providers of real-time, two-way interconnected voice service the networks of which utilize intelligent switching capability and offer seamless handoff to customers, and to extend this definition to broadband Personal Communications Services (PCS) and cellular as well as SMR providers.

The FCC also reemphasized that its rules are intended to be technology-neutral, and to encourage efficient and effective technologies to report the location of wireless handsets, the most important Enhanced 911 (E911) feature both for those seeking help in emergencies and for the public safety organizations that respond to emergency calls.

The FCC upheld its decisions to require that, as of April 1, 1998, covered carriers be able to provide automatic number identification (ANI) and cell site information for 911 calls to the PSAP. The FCC indicated that the provision of ANI as part of the Phase I deployment of E911 would provide valuable information and would assist emergency responses both by identifying the base station receiving the call and by permitting call back if the call is disconnected. The Commission urged the wireless industry to continue efforts to evaluate and develop call back capabilities for calls from non-validated callers, and stated that it will revisit this issue in later stages of the proceeding.

The FCC also upheld its schedule for Phase II of E911. Effective October 1, 2001, covered carriers will be required to identify the location of mobile units making 911 calls within a radius 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 and reliability of 911 services available to wireless callers, particularly by providing the type of location information for wireless 911 calls that is currently available in most communities in the form of wireline E911. The FCC adopted requirements that wireless carriers forward all 911 calls, without user validation, from handsets which transmit a code identification. This approach was intended to ensure 911 access to as many wireless callers as possible without blocking or call processing delay. The FCC believed that this approach would ensure that virtually all subscribing customers -- including roamers -- would be able to place and complete 911 calls easily in emergencies, thus meeting one of the FCC's principal objectives in this rulemaking. The FCC recognized that some non-subscribers could obtain 911 access under this approach. The rules as adopted also permitted PSAPs to choose to receive all 911 calls, regardless of code identification. Further, the rules established a schedule for wireless carriers to implement E911 capability, subject to requirements that local PSAPs be capable of receiving and using E911 service and that a cost recovery mechanism is in place for the local jurisdiction or state.

In its reconsideration decision, the Commission eliminated the code identification provision and PSAP choice, while generally reaffirming E911 requirements and schedules. The requirement that all 911 calls be passed and certain other rule changes will become effective upon publication of the revised rules in the Federal Register.

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


News Media contact: Audrey Spivack at (202) 418-0654 or Jodie Buenning at (202) 418-7272 Wireless Telecommunications Bureau contact: Won Kim or Dan Grosh at (202) 418-1310.

Separate Statement of Chairman William E. Kennard

Revision of the FCC's Rules to Ensure Compatibility with Enhanced 911 Emergency Calling Systems, CC Docket 94-102, Memorandum Opinion and Order December 1, 1997

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

The Order the Commission adopted today takes a common sense approach to public safety. Making 911 and enhanced 911 service available to wireless callers will help emergency service providers respond to people in emergency situations as quickly and as effectively as possible. Under the Commission's Order, wireless carriers subject to the 911 rules will be required to transmit all wireless 911 calls (from both subscribers and non-subscribers) to emergency assistance providers or Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). When it comes to helping people in emergency situations, we have an obligation to do all that we can to make sure that there are no impediments to their receiving help. Assuring prompt delivery of emergency 911 calls from whatever source, without delay, best serves the public interest.

I would also like to state my commitment to ensuring that persons with disabilities have the same access to telecommunications services, including emergency services, as the rest of the American people. While we were forced by the record in this proceeding to defer the obligation of wireless carriers to transmit 911 TTY calls made on digital systems, I call upon the industry to work with persons with disabilities and the organizations that represent them to resolve the technical problems that make this impossible at this time. I am concerned that the wireless industry has not yet been able to solve the problem of transmitting TTY calls over digital systems. I intend to monitor the efforts of the industry to work with persons with disabilities to ensure that sufficient progress is made to solve this problem. We all must do everything we can to make sure that no segment of our community is left behind when it comes to telecommunications and emergency services.

I am pleased that our order reaffirms our commitment to making enhanced 911 service available for wireless callers. In most places, emergency service teams have the ability to locate a 911 wireline caller and the ability to return that person's call. The Commission today reaffirms the deadlines for the rules for enhanced 911 services that will move us closer to making this a reality for wireless callers as well.

The rules we affirm respecting wireless E-911 move us closer to the day when wireless telephony will be viewed by consumers as a complete substitute for wireline telephony. Our rules are also technology-neutral, and encourage the development of efficient and effective methods for reporting the location of calls placed from wireless phones. This is important if we are to encourage innovation within the industry. I look forward to working with industry, public safety groups, consumer groups, and consumers on this issue.

Finally, the Order we adopt today finishes the task of putting in place the basic building blocks of 911 and enhanced 911 services for wireless calls. We now must turn our attention to the issues that remain before us to refine the wireless 911 and enhanced 911 system, and that were raised in the Further Notice in this proceeding. One such issue of great importance to me is the issue of whether we should require that wireless 911 calls be sent to a PSAP by the wireless system with the strongest control channel signal. Supporters of this proposal have argued that it would provide a solution to situations where one carrier has a "blank spot" in its radio system but other carriers can provide coverage. I am committed to resolving the issues surrounding this proposal as soon as possible, so that a viable solution to the problem of "blank spots" can be implemented. Public safety demands that the industry work closely with public safety groups and consumer advocates to forge such a solution. I will make this Further Notice issue a priority, and will be closely monitoring efforts to forge technical solutions for effecting the "strongest signal" proposal.

Separate Statement of Commissioner Gloria Tristani

Revision of the Commission's Rules to Ensure Compatibility with Enhanced 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 Act is "promoting the safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communication." Today, we act on that mandate by assuring that all wireless phone users will have access to 911 emergency services without cumbersome code identification or subscriber validation procedures. In doing so, we recognize that ensuring direct access to 911 services is a public good benefitting all Americans, not simply those placing the call. I note that many wireless carriers have acted in the public interest and already implemented the practice of passing all wireless 911 calls.

At the same time we broaden access to 911, it concerns me that we must delay implementation, for digital systems, of our previously adopted requirement that carriers provide 911 access to customers using TTY or text telephone devices. Wireless telephones have become part of our nation's culture precisely because they are about access -- with mobility, they afford constant communication. This key characteristic also makes the wireless phone uniquely useful as a safety device. Indeed, many wireless subscribers cite safety as the main reason for purchasing a mobile telephone, and public safety organizations have observed that a large and ever-increasing number of 911 calls originate from a wireless telephone. I am concerned that by delaying the requirement of TTY compatibility for digital systems, we effectively deny access to those Americans who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or who have speech disabilities.

In agreeing to a 12-month delay in these requirements, I am mindful that representatives of consumer groups and the deaf and hard-of-hearing community have joined with industry representatives to request additional time for implementation of the TTY requirement. The technical hindrances to TTY compatibility must be resolved through the cooperative efforts of carriers, consumer groups, TTY users, public safety agencies and equipment manufacturers. While I am pleased that this effort has begun, in the coming months I will be particularly attentive to its progress. I expect these groups will exert their best efforts in assuring that all Americans, equally, have access to the combined benefits of wireless telephony and public safety services.

Last changed: December 08, 1997