October 30, 2014 - 4:25 pm
By Michael O'Rielly | Commissioner

In response to my recent blog post regarding the harmful consumer practice of pocket dialing, I received a letter from Kelly Dutra, the Director of the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA) in Beaverton, Oregon.  The letter begins, “I read with interest the Business Week article ‘FCC Commissioner: Butt-Dialing is Taxing 9-1-1’ and let you know you are right on target.  They account for over 30% of our wireless 9-1-1 calls.  In 2005 we installed a system that all wireless calls must pass through to make it to a Calltaker.  The wireless 9-1-1 caller must speak or press any key for the system to recognize it as an actual call to be passed through.” 

Ms. Dutra continued, “I have attached a separate sheet showing numbers from 2012 to current. I’ve also been studying the number of butt calls that make it through the system we just began including in our weekly, monthly, and annual reports.  The device we have in place blocks on average 30% but another 15-20% of the calls that make it through the system are still butt dials with enough noise in the background for the system to treat it as an active call.”

The letter and accompanying data charts from WCCCA, provided below, confirm my overall concern about pocket dialing.  First, as can be seen from the line graph, the scope of the problem is fairly consistent with my rough estimates.  WCCCA reports that approximately 50% or more of daily wireless calls to 911 are pocket dials that are either blocked or reach Calltakers.  Second, even with the technological screen employed by WCCCA, a significant number of pocket dials are still able to get through, wasting the time and effort of public safety officials.  Lastly, the problem with pocket dialing has been fairly consistent over the last number of years, meaning it is not fading as new technology and phones enter the marketplace. 

I thank WCCCA for providing me with these useful and important data points and hope other call centers will provide additional information regarding their experiences with pocket dialing.