Post

What is Your Location?: Public Knowledge Petition Pushes FCC to Implement 911 Accuracy Rules

November 18, 2014

Today, Public Knowledge submits a petition with over 1,000 signatures asking the Federal Communications Commission to implement its proposed rules to ensure 911 dispatchers know where callers are, even when they call from indoors using their cell phones.

This petition comes as a response to concerning reports detailing the current failure of wireless carriers to convey the location of 911 callers. Despite the increasing prevalence of mobile-only households, the carriers have yet to improve or address the widespread reports of failed location accuracy in many states. The FCC must step in to require the basic safety and peace-of-mind that when you call for help, it will come.

Of those who signed and wrote their own personal comments supporting the petition, most were current or past public safety employees, working as either 911 dispatchers, EMTs, firefighters, or police officers. They stressed the importance of the proposed rules, and noted that in an emergency the first and most important question a 911 operator will ask is “What is your location?”

As it stands now, there are an estimated 240 million calls placed to 911 yearly, and almost 70 percent of those calls originate from mobile devices. If the stronger rules that the FCC has proposed are put into place, they could help save at least 10,000 lives per year as well as prevent and reduce the number of life altering emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes for the 22 percent of elderly citizens who live in wireless-only households. Strong location accuracy standards would also protect the 47 percent of children who live in wireless-only households, who may not know or be able to tell dispatchers their addresses.

Age and health are not the only factors that affect a caller’s ability to communicate with dispatchers. Victims of domestic violence may sometimes dial 911 but not be able to explain their need for help for safety reasons. Deaf and hard of hearing communities, as well as non-English speakers, also rely on location accuracy technology to ensure they are located in times of emergency.

With this petition, Public Knowledge urges the FCC implement its proposed rules without delay. While we embrace new technologies, we cannot — and need not — trade public safety away during technology transitions. Today’s mobile communications infrastructure must ensure that every person — regardless of race, sex, age, income level, or disability — has adequate and reliable access to emergency services. Public Knowledge supports and applauds the FCC for presenting these stronger requirements, and we ask that the FCC not waiver in their resolve to ensure first responders can find those in need, no matter how they reach 911.

 

Image credit: Flickr user William Marlow