Public Safety Groups Oppose CTIA’s Request for More Time on Vertical E911

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Seven public-safety organizations banded together to oppose CTIA’s request for more time for carriers to comply with timelines laid out in the FCC’s latest update for E911 location accuracy requirements. The update concerns vertical location data transmitted to first responders during emergency calls.

CTIA told the agency that COVID has upended the anticipated timelines. “Recently adopted and evolving government restrictions and building access limitations have delayed testing necessary to determine whether any technology can be validated for compliance with the sixth R&O’s requirements,” said CTIA in its Petition for Reconsideration. 

Google and Apple were to be part of CTIA testing and they agree COVID has delayed tests. Google told the agency: “Google has long advocated for providing the best location information to [911 call centers] and first responders as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, in light of the present circumstances and CTIA’s reasonable decision to postpone Stage Zb testing, Google urges the Commission once again to consider whether gradual implementation of vertical location benchmarks would “supply first responders with usable vertical location data sooner, and with more useful location information in the long run.” 

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and six other similar groups opposed CTIA’s request. “CTIA claims that the carriers will not be able to meet the upcoming deadline because the vendors have not integrated their solutions into devices. This wrongly attempts to absolve the carriers of their ability and responsibility to influence the capabilities of devices operating on the carriers’ own networks,” the groups told the Commission.

“If the carriers were acting in good faith to achieve the benchmark but encountering difficulty in their negotiations with handset and OS providers, perhaps they’d be seeking assistance from the commission to resolve the impasse,” said APCO, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, National Association of State EMS Officials, the National Public-Safety Telecommunications Council and the National Sheriffs’ Association. “Instead, the carriers ask the commission to move the goalposts on public safety.”

The groups emphasized: “When the April 2021 benchmark arrives, public-safety professionals should immediately see benefits and be able to verify carriers’ compliance by placing test 911 calls from devices that are capable of reporting vertical location without a hardware upgrade (Z-axis capable handsets) and seeing that at least 80 percent of the calls are delivered with 3-meter vertical accuracy or better.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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