FCC Reaches Agreement with 3 Carriers on 9-1-1 Vertical Location, Commissioners Dissent
Tuesday, June 08, 2021 | Comments

FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced agreements with America’s three largest mobile phone providers to start delivering vertical location information in connection with 9-1-1 calls nationwide in the coming days. This information will help first responders quickly locate 9-1-1 callers in multistory buildings, which will reduce response times and ultimately save lives.

The FCC adopted rules to improve location information for 9-1-1 wireless calls back in 2015. Those rules required nationwide wireless providers to deploy dispatchable location or meet certain Z-axis location accuracy requirements in the nation’s largest 25 markets by April 3, and to certify to such deployment by June 2.

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon sought an extension of these deadlines, based in part on challenges with testing Z-axis solutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the FCC announced an Enforcement Bureau (EB) inquiry into these providers’ compliance with the FCC’s deadlines, as well as the current capabilities of z-axis solutions.

To improve public safety and greatly speed up nationwide implementation of vertical location information, the EB reached settlements with AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon that resolve the investigations. The settlements require each company to start providing wireless 9-1-1 callers’ Z-axis location information to 9-1-1 call centers within seven days; to implement a compliance plan that includes specific testing, reporting and public interest conditions; and to pay a $100,000 settlement.

These enforceable commitments extend beyond the 25 largest metropolitan areas required under FCC rules and instead assures that vertical location information will be made available to public-safety entities nationwide. The settlements also will provide public-safety stakeholders with greater visibility into industry progress toward dispatchable location and floor-level accuracy and guidance on receiving and using Z-axis information, the FCC said.

“Six years is too long to wait for 9-1-1 vertical location information that can save lives,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “These settlements accomplish what has evaded the agency for too long: they ensure that the FCC, public safety and wireless carriers work together to immediately start delivering this information to first responders without further delay. They also ensure that we are improving our 9-1-1 location accuracy capabilities everywhere in the country and not just in the top 25 markets. This progress will advance important public safety objectives and benefit all Americans.”

FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington released statements dissenting with the agreements with the carriers.

“In an emergency, every second counts. That’s why the FCC adopted rules in 2015 that can save lives by helping first responders quickly locate 9-1-1 callers. Through a series of decisions, the FCC required wireless carriers to identify the location of 9-1-1 callers within 3 vertical meters for 80% of all covered calls by April of this year,” the commissioners said. “The full commission determined that holding wireless carriers to this standard was technically feasible and would potentially save over 10,000 lives per year, including the lives of first responders going into harm’s way. So, we were surprised and disappointed to learn through a news release that FCC leadership decided to relieve wireless carriers of their certification requirement. The FCC is letting wireless carriers off the hook in exchange for $100,000 and a promise to provide whatever vertical location information they may have — however inaccurate it may be. This agreement, negotiated without any input from our offices, is a bad deal for public safety.”

Find the FCC’s agreement with AT&T here, T-Mobile’s here and Verizon’s here.

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