Press Release Tech Transitions

Public Knowledge Applauds FCC Action To Save Lives by Enhancing 911 Service Outage Notifications

April 22, 2021 , , ,

Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to improve the framework for reporting network disruptions that affect 911 service. This action should ensure that both call centers and consumers receive timely and useful notifications of 911 service disruptions. Public Knowledge supports the proposed rules to help save lives during 911 outages.

The FCC distinguishes between two types of companies in the 911 network: 911 originators, networks like AT&T and Verizon that provide the retail voice service that people use to call 911; and 911 service providers, the companies that help 911 originators manage traffic and deliver it to the first-responder network. A breakdown in either network can cause a shut down of 911 services. Under existing rules, first responders may not learn of a breakdown for hours. To make things worse, no one has the responsibility to tell consumers when 911 is down. People trying to reach 911 may not know that their call has not gone through, leaving them waiting for help that will not come.

The FCC proposes several improvements to the existing 911 outage reporting requirements and 911 network reliability overall. Importantly, it requires 911 originating networks to inform customers of a 911 outage, whether or not the network provider is the source of the outage. It also proposes requiring networks to swiftly notify 911 service providers when outages occur.

The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:

“These proposals are a welcome upgrade that will make all Americans safer. In particular, we are pleased to see the proposal includes for the first time a requirement to swiftly notify the public when their 911 system goes down. Too often, members of the public have seen their calls for help go unanswered without knowing why, or what they can do instead to get the life-saving help they need. We applaud Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel for centering people for protection, rather than treating this as simply an issue of carriers and technology.”