FCC Moves to Better Route Wireless 911 Calls

FCC Proposes Rules To Improve Routing of Wireless 911 Calls and Texts

Action Would Support Faster Emergency Response

The Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to more precisely route wireless 911 calls and texts to 911 call centers, which can result in faster response times during emergencies.

Wireless 911 calls have historically been routed to 911 call centers based on the location of the cell tower that handles the call.  But in some cases—for example, if a 911 call is made near a county or a city border—the nearest cell tower may be in a neighboring jurisdiction.  In these cases, the call may be routed to a 911 call center in that neighboring jurisdiction, not the call center that serves the caller’s location.  These wireless 911 calls must then be re-routed to the proper 911 call center, which can waste valuable time and resources during emergencies.

In 2018, the Commission issued a Notice of Inquiry that sought comment on the feasibility of routing 911 calls based on the location of the caller as opposed to the location of the cell tower that handles that call.  Earlier this year, the Commission issued a Public Notice to update the record in this proceeding, noting several advancements in location-based routing technology and some implementation of location-based routing on wireless networks. 

Based on these findings, the Commission today adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require wireless providers and certain text providers to:
  • Deploy technology that supports location-based routing on their Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks (i.e., 4G, LTE, 5G, and future generations of IP networks);·       
  • Use location-based routing to route all 911 voice calls and texts originating on their IP-based networks when caller location information meets certain requirements for accuracy and timeliness;
  • Use best available location information (which could be longitude/latitude of the cell tower) to route these 911 voice calls and texts when caller location information does not meet the proposed requirements; and
  • Deliver 911 calls, texts, and associated routing information in IP format upon the request of 911 authorities who have the capability to accept it.
Action by the Commission December 21, 2022 by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 22-96).  Chairwoman Rosenworcel, Commissioners Carr, Starks, and Simington approving.  Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Commissioner Starks issuing separate statements.

Source: FCC media announcement

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