The Telecommunications Industry Association, or TIA, this week asked the FCC to create an Enhanced 911 Technical Advisory Group.

TIA wants the ETAG to consist of wireless network manufacturers, device manufacturers, service providers, and public-safety experts. Danielle Coffey, TIA’s vice president of government affairs said in a press release that the “efficient and accurate implementation of new E911 accuracy requirements will be impossible without wireless network and device manufacturers working alongside public safety and wireless carriers.”

“The first idea for an ETAG originally was put forward in comments by AT&T last year,” said Patrick Halley, governmental affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), during an interview with Urgent Communications. He added that NENA, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, Verizon and AT&T Mobility all made a similar suggestion in proposals submitted recently with the FCC.

The ETAG notion is a good idea, Halley said. “If we had a technology advisory group in place, it could address new technologies as they arise,” he said. “We could have a common place to go to test new technologies, so that we’re all on the same page as to what the technologies can do.”

Location technologies come immediately to mind, Halley said. “In the past, we have sometimes gotten into situations where the vendors say they can perform [a certain] capability, and the carriers say that’s not true. Public safety then is caught in the middle, not knowing what to do.”

Another advantage of an ETAG is that it would let the stakeholders “look at complicated issues and make recommendations as a group,” Halley said. Among the issues are indoor testing and how to determine the height of the wireless 911 caller, i.e., what floor of a building he or she is on. “All we have now is latitude and longitude,” Halley said.

Given that the FCC first issued its wireless E911 rules in 1996, it might seem odd that an ETAG doesn’t already exist. Halley said part of the problem was an adversarial relationship that existed between some of the public-safety groups, the carriers and the vendors that prevented such cooperation. But that’s now in the past, he said.

“We’ve put our heads together and said, ‘Let’s try to resolve this debate we’ve been having about E911 location accuracy compliance.’ … Everybody at the FCC wants us to come to them with a unified proposal whenever possible,” Halley said.

This new level of cooperation is evidenced by key public-safety and carrier organizations agreeing that location accuracy should be measured at the county level—a compromise proposal that has been given to the FCC. This proposal is designed to fill the void left with a federal court overturned FCC rules passed last year that called for carriers to meet E911 Phase 2 location-accuracy requirements at the public-safety answering point level and comply with annual benchmarks over the next five years.

Previously, carriers were allowed to collect accuracy data from an entire state or region in order to meet the Phase 2 requirements, a technique that many in public safety believe has masked deficiencies in certain areas.

In other news, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its grant guidance for the $43.5 million that’s available for public safety answering point upgrades, money that was authorized four years ago by the Enhance 911 Act. NTIA is seeking comment on its guidelines, which have been published in the Federal Register.