FCC wants to fine AT&T Wireless $2.2 million for wireless E9-1-1 violations
The FCC has alleged that AT&T wireless violated its rules and failed to update information on which a pending waiver request is based. The federal agency has proposed that AT&T be held liable for a $2.2 million fine for the transgressions with which it is charged.
“We respectfully but strongly disagree with the FCC,” said Rochelle Cohen, a spokesperson for AT&T Wireless. “We look forward to responding to the FCC with the facts, which will show that the proposed forfeiture is excessive, given the circumstances.”
The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau investigated whether AT&T Wireless violated its Enhanced 911 Phase II rules with respect to the company’s Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service network. On April 4, 2001, AT&T Wireless asked the FCC to waive a part of its E911 Phase II rules in connection with the company’s new GSM network to allow the use of a hybrid handset- and network-based location technology.
In its waiver request, AT&T Wireless stated that it would provide location-capable handsets to all GSM subscribers so that the GSM network would be capable of providing Phase II service from the date of deployment. Thus, the FCC contends that AT&T Wireless limited its request to only a waiver of the Phase II accuracy requirements, not to the underlying rules themselves. On Oct. 2, 2001, the FCC granted AT&T Wireless a temporary, conditional waiver of the location accuracy requirements, relying in part on AT&T Wireless’s statement that it did not need a broader waiver.
After receiving reports that AT&T Wireless had, contrary to its statements in connection with its waiver request, already begun to deploy its GSM network without location-capable handsets, the Enforcement Bureau commenced an investigation into AT&T Wireless’s compliance with the E911 rules. Based on this investigation, the FCC found that:
AT&T Wireless appears to have violated Section 20.18(g)(1)(i) of the FCC rules by failing to begin selling and activating location-capable handsets by Oct. 1, 2001 without requesting a waiver and after telling the agency that it did not need such a waiver. The FCC proposed a $500,000 fine for this apparent violation.
AT&T Wireless appears to have violated Section 20.18(g)(2) of the FCC rules by failing to implement any network or infrastructure upgrades necessary to provide E911 Phase II service and to begin providing Phase II service within six months of a valid request by a designated Public Safety Answering Point or by Oct. 1, 2001, whichever is later, without requesting a waiver and after telling the agency that it did not need such a waiver. For this apparent violation, the FCC proposed a $500,000 fine.
AT&T Wireless appears to have violated Section 1.65 of the FCC rules by failing to notify the agency within 30 days that information in its E911 waiver request was no longer substantially accurate and complete. Specifically, the FCC alleges that AT&T Wireless never informed it, contrary to statements in connection with its pending waiver request, the carrier had in fact begun deploying its GSM network without location-capable handsets. In addition, the FCC said that AT&T Wireless appears to have violated its Oct. 2, 2001, order granting it a waiver of the E911 rules for its GSM network by failing to make a supplementary filing notifying the FCC that it was not going to comply with the Phase II deployment schedule requirements. The FCC proposed a $1.2 million fine for these apparent violations.
Responding to the allegations, Cohen said that AT&T Wireless has devoted substantial resources toward deploying E911. But she said that compliance with the E911 mandate is not only technically complex, it has presented challenges beyond AT&T Wireless’ control. She explained that the carrier depends on infrastructure and handset vendors to meet their commitments, and that some vendors failed.
“When we got all the necessary facts—which were constantly changing as vendors encountered technological setbacks—we informed the FCC. We also updated the record at the commission. The types of vendor delays we experienced have also been reported to the FCC and experienced by other GSM carriers, and we’re as frustrated as anyone that some of our vendors didn’t deliver what they promised,” Cohen said.
Cohen said that AT&T Wireless is “firmly committed” to bringing the next phase of Enhanced 911 service to the communities that it serves. She said that the company has pledged to beat the FCC’s deadline for Phase II compliance by one year on its GSM network; that is, by Dec. 31, 2004, instead of Dec. 31, 2005.
Joe Hanna is president of Directions, a Dallas-based consulting firm that advises public safety answering points (9-1-1 call centers) about wireless location matters. In recalling that FCC Chairman Michael Powell and Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy have said that they would like to see the FCC enact fewer rules and enforce those it has, Hanna said that “the AT&T action is a welcome first step in making this vision a reality. AT&T Wireless has frequently wrapped themselves in the public safety flag, but has done little to deliver the promises made in their previous waiver requests.”
Hanna said that AT&T Wireless has failed to meet their own timetables on either its GSM or TDMA networks. He said that, although AT&T Wireless has tried blame suppliers on its failure to act, the carrier hasn’t explained why it has failed to implement E9-1-1 services for its TDMA customers.
“Based on the recent implementations of location technology by Sprint and Verizon using both network- and handset-based solutions, AT&T Wireless has reinforced previously held perceptions that implementation of E9-1-1 for its subscribers is a low priority. Although the FCC’s actions to date have focused on AT&T Wireless, I am equally concerned that other carriers who have elected to use an E-OTD solution have failed to meet any of the deadlines offered in previous approved filings with the Commission. Failure to meet carrier-set benchmarks, coupled with statements that developments on the E-OTD solution are ‘promising,’ do little to establish an optimistic outlook for compliance with the FCC mandate,” Hanna said.