FCC Adopts E911 Location Tracking Accuracy Benchmarks

September 11, 2007. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted, but did not release, a Report and Order regarding E911 Phase II location accuracy requirements at the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) service area level. This is another in a series of FCC actions related to mandating and increasing the accuracy of location tracking of wireless devices, including VOIP.

The FCC issued a short release [PDF] that summarizes this R&O. It states that this item "requires carriers to meet interim, annual benchmarks over the next five years".

The FCC release states that this includes "Fulfilling the Commission's location accuracy requirements within each Economic Area in which a carrier operates by September 11, 2008", "Satisfying the location accuracy requirements within each Metropolitan Statistical Area and Rural Service Area that the carrier serves; and demonstrating significant progress toward compliance at the PSAP-level, including achieving this requirement within at least 75 percent of the PSAPs the carrier serves, by September 11, 2010", and "Achieving full compliance with the PSAP-level location accuracy requirements by September 11, 2012."

All five FCC Commissioners wrote and released statements in which they emphasized the public safety goals of the FCC in adopting this item.

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell added in his statement [PDF] that "today's item is fraught with highly dubious legal and policy maneuvering that bypasses a still developing record on what should be the reasonable and appropriate implementation details".

He added that "Given the huge commitment of resources and effort needed to make the vast progress we have yet to make, a collaborative, cooperative approach is the most effective way to achieve the goals all of us share. Adopting in whole cloth an eleventh hour proposal at the stroke of Sunshine’s end is not the way to promote an atmosphere for progress. Instead of working with all stakeholders, the Commission today simply adopts on a Tuesday a proposal filed on Friday. Offering no opportunity for deliberation or participation by so many stakeholders does not befit an expert agency."

Steve Largent, head of the Wireless Association, stated in a release that it and the wireless industry "are committed to improving location accuracy. Today's action by the Commission will hamper that important effort."

He continued that "In addition to today's item being procedurally flawed, I am concerned that the Commission's action may lead to unrealistic -- and potentially harmful -- consumer expectations. I had hoped the Commission would move forward in a collaborative effort involving experts from industry, public safety, and government.  I am sorry to see that is not the case."

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) praised the FCC in a release for "establishing measurable benchmarks to improve the process for locating E9-1-1 calls". He wrote that "Determining the accurate location of emergency calls can mean the difference between life and death, and these new standards will assist both the wireless industry and the public safety community in making wireless emergency calls more reliable. The technical issues involved will require government, public safety and industry to work together cooperatively to achieve our common goals."

This item is FCC 07-166 in PS Docket No. 07-114 and CC Docket No. 94-102.

See also, story titled "FCC Extends E911 Location Tracking Rules to Interconnected VOIP" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,589, May 31, 2007.