Federal Communications Commission
COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI
APPROVING IN PART AND CONCURRING IN PARTRe:
Wireless E911 Location Accuracy Requirements, PS Docket No. 07-114
It is one of the most elementary questions one can ask, yet it has been a challenging one for
technology alone to answer: Where are you? The answer to this question is vital during an emergency.
For this reason, there is tremendous value in transmitting accurate location data to emergency responders
whenever someone dials 911. By knowing the location of someone in need, 911 dispatchers can send
first responders immediately to the scene. Without it, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical
technicians may spend precious seconds, minutes, or even hours searching for a caller. And that is true
whether a call is made indoors or outside.
I saw the promise of accurate indoor location technology for myself in the summer of 2012 inside
a large Silicon Valley hotel. As I rode the elevator from floor to floor on that July afternoon, the
prototype device tracked me fairly well. Had I needed to call 911, transmitting that information could
have made all the difference.
I therefore support today’s decision to commence a rulemaking proceeding to examine whether
the Commission should adopt indoor location accuracy requirements. I also believe that we should enact
rules in this area that are both aggressive and achievable. Unfortunately, I am skeptical that the
timeframes proposed in today’s item are realistic. As a result, I am voting to approve in part and concur
Concerned about the feasibility of the timeframes proposed in this item, my office asked
Commission staff and stakeholders for a step-by-step timeline that would show how it would be possible
for a carrier to meet the timeframes contained in our proposed rules. But to date, no one has been able to
produce such a timeline. It appears that today’s proposal takes its inspiration from Field of Dreams: “If
you build it, he will come.” Only in this case, the mantra is: “If we mandate it, they will comply.”
This is unfortunate. The Commission’s rules should be more than aspirational. Our rulemaking
process is not a feel-good exercise. It imposes legally binding obligations on regulated entities. It is
unfair to saddle them with obligations that cannot be met. And such rules don’t help the American people
either. Indeed, they can be counterproductive since they stand a good chance of sparking litigation or
paralyzing the industry with fear of taking any action if there is no clear path to compliance.
Americans recently have witnessed several instances where unrealistic mandates were imposed
on businesses and had to be delayed. In order to prevent history from repeating itself, I would like to
highlight two specific suggestions teed up in today’s item for enabling carriers to comply with any
location accuracy rules. First, the trigger for compliance should not be the effective date of the rules we
ultimately adopt. Instead, the clock should start running when our Communications Security, Reliability
and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) certifies that a technology vendor has demonstrated through an
independently administered test bed program that a solution meets the horizontal and vertical location
accuracy benchmarks set forth in those rules. To me, this is a matter of common sense. Carriers cannot
begin to deploy a technology solution that does not yet exist. And the public should not be led to rely on
a promise that cannot be kept.
Second, carriers should not be subject to enforcement action if they prove they are making their
best efforts to deploy a technology that has been certified by CSRIC as complying with the Commission’s
location accuracy standards. Creating such a safe harbor would incentivize every vendor to partake in the
CSRIC process. After all, the first to get CSRIC certification would have a leg up on competitors in
getting its technology deployed in the field. This race to certification, in turn, would have the
Federal Communications Commission
FCC 14-13serendipitous effect of getting an independently verified technology out in the field further and faster.
This will save lives.
We also need to have this safety valve because we do not know how long it will take for carriers
to deploy a compliant technology nationwide or whether a compliant technology will work in every single
county in the United States. Deploying a compliant technology across the whole country will be a
daunting and time-consuming task. Judging from our experience with Phase II, which the FCC mandated
in 1996 but will not be fully implemented until 2019, I am skeptical that this deployment can be
completed in two to three years.
The item indicates, for example, that CMRS carriers are increasingly turning to handset-based
solutions for providing location information. But what would that entail here? First, the technology in
question will need to go through the standards process. Second, device manufacturers will need to
incorporate it into handsets. Third, consumers then will need to replace their old handsets with new ones.
Experience with the deployment of AGPS-capable handsets has taught us that this is a cycle that will take
many years to complete—and that’s if everything goes smoothly. While I wish that we could click our
heels together three times and watch the technology magically deploy itself on a nationwide basis, we’re
not in Oz (or Kansas, for that matter).
One other aspect of the proposed rules is worth mentioning. Today’s item proposes that accurate
location information must be transmitted to a Public Safety Answering Point within 30 seconds. At the
same time, however, it also proposes to exclude from compliance determinations only calls lasting 10
seconds or less. So what is given with one hand would be taken away by the other. If a call lasts for
twenty seconds, then a carrier will be penalized for failing to transmit accurate location information
within those twenty seconds even though the rule ostensibly provides the carrier with thirty seconds to do
so. This does not make sense. Whatever time period we end up choosing, whether it be 10 seconds, 20
seconds, or 30 seconds, we should have one consistent measure of how long carriers have to provide
location accuracy information.
Finally, there’s another critical aspect of the location accuracy problem worth thinking about.
Last month, I began an inquiry into the state of 911 availability in establishments, such as hotels, motels,
office buildings, and schools, that use multiline telephone systems (MLTS). Location accuracy matters
with MLTS systems as well. A recent tragedy in Utah illustrates why.
On January 22, Randy Palmer suffered a heart attack while shopping at a Midvale, Utah auto
parts store. An employee promptly called 911. But the call went to the wrong dispatch center because
the store’s phone system indicated that the call was being placed from the company’s Salt Lake City
office. First responders were consequently sent to the wrong location and took about 15 minutes to arrive
in Midvale. Unfortunately, Mr. Palmer passed away. His widow put it well when she said: “People need
to know what happened and I don’t want something like this to happen to someone else. My husband
was the most important person in my life [and] in my daughter’s life. The [extra] minutes absolutely cost
him his life.” To me, the lesson is this: As we design indoor location accuracy requirements, we must
not forget about MLTS location accuracy.
I would like to thank the staff of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau for their hard
work on these issues and my colleagues for agreeing to incorporate some of my suggestions into this
item. I look forward to working together in the months to come to hasten the day when that vexing
question—where are you?—becomes an academic one when it comes to emergency calling.
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