New FCC Policy Pinpoints Location of Wireless 911 Callers

Several weeks after requiring all text messaging providers to finally enable texting to 911 before the end of the year, the US Federal Communications Commission has lodged another proposed policy. This time, the communications watchdog wants to make it easier to identify locations of 911 callers specifically those who are calling from their mobile phones.

FCC wants to make it possible for 911 operators to not just locate the building of the mobile callers but also the floor where they are located during the time of the calls. This type of service update may require technological advancement, which the agency believes is feasible these days.

Updates on current rules 

The current rules for 911 operations were instituted in 1996. Those were given an update in 2010. However, the updates only require wireless operators to meet standards on accuracy in calls that are made outdoors. The need for another update on the provision became imminent as mobile phone usage further exploded in the last four years. It should also be noted that more 911 calls were made via  mobile phones from inside buildings and homes.

For instance, in California alone, up to 73% of all 911 calls are being made using wireless handsets. Of those, about 80% are made indoors. Thus, FCC wants to make sure there are location accuracy standards to help 911 operators easily determine the buildings from where indoor calls are done.

At the same time, the agency wants wireless networks to provide vertical location information of callers. It said this would allow 911 operators to further pinpoint with accuracy the locations of callers who are in huge office or apartment structures.

Advanced technology 

FC ensures that the technology may be new but it is already being used in many new handsets that are available commercially. This proposal, it added, seek to leverage that particular handset innovation to ensure that data is available for public safety.

Not surprisingly, FCC wants to enable 911 operators to identify specific rooms in offices and apartments of callers in the future. But the agency admitted that it would require more advanced indoor locating technology. It would also require greater deployment of in-building communications technology and infrastructure.

FCC also said that it would have to take two to tango. Aside from wireless networks, the agency is also asking 911 centers to do their part. It wants to require all 911 operators to install the latest technology in making sire Public Safety Answering Points or PSAPs are more equipped to handle emergency calls. 

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Drew is a regular contributor covering trending topics.