FCC to Vote on 9-1-1 Vertical Location Accuracy Rules at November Meeting
Tuesday, October 29, 2019 | Comments

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the FCC will take action on 9-1-1 indoor location rules in November. Pai released a draft order that would establish a vertical location accuracy metric of ±3 meters for indoor wireless 9-1-1 calls.

The commission will vote on the proposal at its Nov. 19 open meeting.

“If you call 9-1-1 from your cellphone, today’s system does a good job of dispatching first responders to the caller’s street address,” he said. “The problem is that it doesn’t provide the vertical location of where the call originated. That can be a big problem if you are calling 9-1-1 from a high-rise building like an office tower, and a delay of minutes in first responders finding you can be the difference between life and death.”

The draft order would establish a Z-axis location accuracy metric of 3 meters relative to the handset for 80% of indoor wireless 9-1-1 calls in the top 25 markets by April 3, 2021. Carriers would have to deploy Z-axis technology that meets this metric in the top 50 markets by April 3, 2023. The draft rules would also require wireless carriers to validate through testing that their Z-axis technology meets this metric and extend privacy protections to Z-axis data conveyed with 9-1-1 calls.

The item would seek comment on further tightening the Z-axis metric over time and ultimately requiring wireless carriers to report the caller’s specific floor level. The item would also seek comment on alternative deployment milestones for Z-axis and dispatchable location technologies.

This metric is supported by a broad-cross section of public-safety organizations, including the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA), the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) and the International Association of Fire Fighters, because it would more accurately identify a 9-1-1 caller’s floor level and is achievable, Pai said. 

Carriers have asked for a phased-in approach to vertical location requirements.

In a recent ex parte filing, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International expressed concern that “we are on a path that will not lead to meaningful improvements in 9-1-1 location information.” The filing describes APCO’s concerns with the FCC’s Z-axis proposal, broader problems with the wireless 9-1-1 location accuracy rules and recommendations for how the commission should proceed with revising the rules.

“Helping first responders identify the vertical location of 9-1-1 callers will help them do their jobs even better and will ultimately save lives,” Pai said in a blog.

The FCC document is here.

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