E911 location, 800 MHz rebanding on FCC agenda
FCC commissioners will consider new rules for E911 location accuracy and 800 MHz rebanding—issues critical to public safety—during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, according to the agenda released by the agency this week.
The E911 item is expected to address the geographic area used to comply with FCC requirements for the accuracy of location information included in 911 calls from wireless phones. Currently, carriers are able to aggregate accuracy data from entire states and regions to meet FCC guidelines, but studies have shown that some location information in certain environments is so inaccurate that it is virtually worthless to public safety.
Public-safety organizations have asked that location information meet accuracy requirements within the territory served by each public-safety answering point (PSAP). The FCC expressed an interest in establishing such a rule this summer, when it started the E911 proceeding.
The item will be considered less than two weeks after the FCC announced $2.85 million in fines against three wireless carriers—Sprint Nextel, U.S. Cellular and Alltel—for failing to meet the FCC’s E911 handset requirements. Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) President Willis Carter said he hopes the recent activity is a sign that E911 location accuracy will be a priority in the future.
“I don’t like the negative impact of the fines, but if that’s what it takes to get the attention of the carriers, maybe that’s a good thing in the long run,” Carter said. “I’m just glad [the E911 location accuracy issue] is in the forefront.”
Meanwhile, the FCC also is scheduled to consider an item to “announce supplemental procedures and provide guidance for completion” of the massive 800 MHz rebanding project, which is behind schedule. Designed to mitigate cellular interference to public-safety wireless communications in the band, rebanding is supposed to be finished in 10 months, but most involved believe the work will not be completed until at least 2010.
At last month’s APCO conference in Baltimore, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and other agency officials repeatedly stated that commissioners would not extend the timetable for rebanding, but procedures would be established to give public-safety licensees the time needed to finish the relocation work. Industry speculation has centered on the need for a waiver process and benchmarks to ensure that rebanding progresses at an acceptable rate.