FCC Wants First-Responders To Know Exactly Where 911 Calls Are Coming From

No one wants to be in a position where calling 911 is necessary, but if the situation does occur we’d all like to think first-responders could easily find us. But that’s just not the case now that more consumers are using cell phones to make emergency calls. Especially when those calls are being made indoors, out of the view of GPS satellites.

Of the 400,000 emergency calls made each day, nearly three-quarters are made with a cellphone. While it’s easy for 911 dispatchers to locate someone outside on a cellphone, pinpointing the location of someone inside a tall office building is more difficult, if not impossible.

The Federal Communications Commission recently announced a proposed requirement on wireless carriers and 911 dispatchers to improve indoor location accuracy, The Washington Post reports.

Currently, mobile devices can pinpoint a caller’s general location, but if you’re calling from a multi-story building there’s a chance first-responders are wasting time looking on other floors.

The proposed requirement aims to ensure that during the first 30 seconds of a 911 call dispatchers can pinpoint a caller’s location within 50 meters. Officials are hopeful that 80 percent of all wireless 911 calls will benefit from the new location capabilities in five years.

The FCC is looking at two ways to determine a caller’s precise location.

Wireless companies could use assisted GPS, which combines GPS location information with data from the cellular network. Another option is to use AFLT, a new technology which triangulates your position on the basis of your distance from multiple cell towers.

While the proposal would make significant progress in improving standards for indoor 911 calls, it has drawn criticism from regulators and the wireless industry.

FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly is worried about how the proposal would affect consumer privacy. During a recent FCC meeting he said citizens should not have to worry about being tracked by law enforcement or other government entities in non-emergency situations.

Additionally, wireless carriers are pushing back, saying the FCC deadline of five years is impossible to reach.

New FCC proposal would require pinpoint location accuracy for 911 calls [The Washington Post]

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