FCC Ready for Indoor Location Rules for 911 Calls

February 26, 2014  - By
Janice Partyka

Janice Partyka

Last week, the FCC proposed to update 911 regulations to require carriers to be able to locate 911 calls that are made indoors. The current rules were made in 1996 and only required carriers to locate outdoor calls. Then, the outdoor-only rule made sense. We used wireline indoors, and complex indoor technology wasn’t in sight. That is no longer the case. Nearly 73 percent of 911 calls in California are made from wireless phones. The FCC wants to start small; in the near term, wireless carriers would need to identify the building, as well as the floor, from where the call is being made. I’ll get to the proposed long-term rules in a bit.

How do I think this will play out? Dialing back in time to the turn of the century, you will recall that the carriers were stomping their feet in outrage over FCC rules that required carriers to send the location of an outdoor 911 call to dispatch centers. The word onerous was used generously by the carriers. K Street filled its pockets lobbying the FCC to water down location accuracy requirements and reporting. There were certainly some challenges complying with the FCC rules, but they were greatly overstated.

Back then, I served two terms on the board of the E911 Institute, which supported a caucus in Congress devoted to promoting emergency response. The board included wireless carriers, vendors and public safety professionals. While, on the face of it the carriers were providing support for E911, at the same time, they were working hard to take teeth out of the implementation. We will see how the carriers respond this time.

So let’s look at the FCC’s proposed rules for the long-term. The commission is proposing more detailed indoor location accuracy standards that would require identification of the specific room, office or apartment where a wireless 911 call is made. Imagine a call being placed from a college dorm or arena and the value is clear. And with regard to the technology, my retailer in the mall can trace my location throughout the mall, before and after I enter their store. As usual, the commercial arena has showed us what’s possible. Let’s see what the carriers say this time about stricter rules on location.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in Mobile, Opinions

About the Author: Janice Partyka

Janice Partyka is principal of JGP Services, www.jgpservices.net, a consulting practice that helps companies with marketing strategy, including investigating new markets, ensuring product roadmaps match market needs, and creating marketing campaigns. Janice develops websites, social media, public relations and overall marketing communication. She also works as an expert witness for the mobile industry and conducts prior art searches for patent cases. Janice has served in leadership capacities in the wireless industry, leading marketing, business development, media and government relations, including serving as vice president of external affairs for TechnoCom Corporation. She briefed the Obama transition team on broadband issues. Janice was a twice-elected member of the board of directors of the E9-1-1 Institute, which supports the work of the U.S. Congressional E9-1-1 Caucus to ensure implementation of wireless E9-1-1, and she was telecom liaison to the Intelligent Transportation Society's World Congress. Janice is a frequent speaker at mobile and location industry events. Her webinars on mobile applications and technologies draw audiences from more than 40 countries. Janice Partyka is also the founder of www.majorstocareers.com, a web service that helps college students find the right major that will lead to a satisfying career. Contact: Janice Partyka at jpartyka@jgpservices.net, www.jgpservices.net. Free subscriptions to Wireless LBS Insider are available at https://www.gpsworld.com/subscriptions.

5 Comments on "FCC Ready for Indoor Location Rules for 911 Calls"

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  1. Howard Pierpont says:

    Interesting that this post comes at just about the same time as the LAX shooting report is about to be released. Preliminary copies of the report indicate there is a need for in building locators to be broadcast.

  2. Josh Sookman says:

    Indoor location detecting capabilities are the future for emergency broadcasting. GPS is good, but indoor positioning is order of magnitudes better.

    I’ve been keeping a close eye on the public safety side of things (NG-911), but typically -as Janice points out – these sorts of feats (proving out new technological capabilities) are accomplished in the private/commercial space first. Beyond the feasibility of the indoor positioning technology, public infrastructure has more issues preventing the adoption of advanced services of any kind that rely on IP-based (or digital) information, as many PSAPs are still running on analog, and many of the E911 Phase 2 PSAPs have reverted back to Phase 1 due to financial cuts to their budgets. A very unfortunate thing in the US.

    @Howard: It’s an interesting point you made about the connection to LAX. We’ve seen a spike in interest in our services from airport-related entities – a direct correlation. Guardly (the company I work for) was the first to offer integrated mobile duress (emergency signalling) for smartphones to be linked with indoor positioning capabilities. We offer these services to commercial entities who operate their own security operations center and team – typically integrating with (Global) Security Operations Centers.

    We see the demand for indoor positioning capabilities increasing on the private/commercial side before it’s ever adopted in the public safety world. It’s my hope the US sees the importance in this technology, and provides the adequate funding PSAPs deserve to get them using digital technology stacks. They are decades behind on technology, and lack key information that could otherwise be provided to them, which could be used to save peoples lives.

    • Howard Pierpont says:

      I worked for an employer in Oregon with 16,000 highly mobile people crossing multiple campus entities. My campus was 6 buildings plus and auditorium with 2 or 3 stories. Trying to determine exactly where the problem was could be an issue and delay response.

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  4. Hello Janice Partyka

    I read all article and thanks to you such a great information with our.