FCC Cracks Down On E911 Violations? Yeah, Right

from the the-best-kind-of-deadline dept

The FCC has announced that it wants to fine three mobile operators a total of $2.825 million (a staggering figure, we know) for their continued failure to meet E911 standards. The rules said that by the end of 2005, operators had to be able to locate 95% of their subscribers within a certain distance when they called 911, and these operators still haven’t met the standard, apparently — thanks in part to their use of handset-based location technology, and a good number of users who haven’t upgraded their phones. Surely the FCC fines will make them move, right? Because all the other meaningless fines the FCC’s doled out have really worked. While the FCC tries to look tough by “cracking down” on the operators, plenty of places still don’t have 911 call centers that can actually use the location information — in part because they frittered away the funds that were supposed to pay for call center upgrades on ballpoint pens and winter boots.

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Comments on “FCC Cracks Down On E911 Violations? Yeah, Right”

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Cool Jim says:


Seems that my mobile operator is on that list. How interesting. Perhaps I shall drive my car off into a ditch, call 911, and remain to be found a week later as I “manage” to crawl to the side of the highway. Then I will sue my mobile operator for several million dollars and use their coninued failure to live up to requirements to sway the jury to my side. Owww, the pain, the agony, the emotional trauma of laying in a ditch for a week wondering if I’ll die… I’m already suffering PTSD and my shyst..ummm, doctor and lawyer say it will last a miserable lifetime.

Anonymous Coward says:

states were busy frittering

You’re off the point, Jeff. Please don’t try to deflect attention from what the article said.

The fact is as stated – the mobile operators are in violation.

It’s true whether or not some (or all) of the states did not fulfill their own responsibilities. You tried to change the subject – a cheap trick.

I’m beginning to get the feeling that this blog is being systematically used to promote the interests of big business and monopolies.

Does anyone else get that impression?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: states were busy frittering

The article states that the mobile operators are in violation of having a certain percentage of their users equipped with e911 compliant handsets. So now the mobile providers are supposed to force their users to upgrade?


The FCC obviously has it’s own agenda, they have rolled back the deadline several times. This penalty, while both trivial and pointless from both sides perspective, makes points in the media culture that Big Government is out to protect The Little Guy by making Big Business toe the line. Please. All they’re doing is getting a blurb in the news so people think that they’re doing something.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: states were busy frittering


“I’m beginning to get the feeling that this blog is being systematically used to promote the interests of big business and monopolies.

Does anyone else get that impression?”

OMFG! Are you kidding me? Read any 5 stories in a row on this blog and tell me what proportion supports big business and which doesn’t. Chances are one or two will support, one or two will slam, and one or two will do neither.

Get a grip. The balance on this blog is one of the things that makes it rise above the rest. We’re neither corporate fanboys, nor anarchists. We’re neither nazis nor socialists. We believe that corporations can do great things, but that they can also make mistakes and do bad things.

I promise you that as a full-time consultant, and a part-time writer on this blog, my willingness to criticize corporations HAS cost me clients. Yet some people (like Techdirt writers) just want to speak the truth, and hope that some people will appreciate that.

Thanks a lot for being one of those people.

MrWizard says:

Let me get this straight...

They are just now getting around to fining these companies for something that occurred (or didn’t occur) in Dec 05?

That’s crap!
The fines should have been handed out in Jan 06.

Punishment is nowhere near as effective unless it is applied when violation the happened.

Nice going, FCC.
Way to stay abreast of things.

Clueby4 says:

E911 is a lot like USF

E911 sounds a lot like USF. Fined, not good enough, jail time for executives sounds about right, or even better they have to refund their customers all E911 money.

Take a look at your phone bill, you get reamed monthly for E911. So there’s really no excuse, just like lack of rural coverage with the existence of the USF funding. Where’s that money going? Why are we still being charged?

Me, I think it the same old story, companies not investing in there infrastructure. And the same tire old mantra of the greedy, don’t build your infrastructure to accommodate 100% usage. While I have little sympathy for the “realities” of that, I will acknowledge it a pretty hard goal to meet, so perhaps some legislation and/or regulation to SEVERELY PUNISH companies when their, obviously low-balled, capacity threshold affects their users.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Get The Facts

More to the issue than my previous post, regarding:

“Take a look at your phone bill, you get reamed monthly for E911.”

Yes, the mobile phone bill has a monthly fee attached to it for E911 funding. It’s a different amount in different states. So you’re pissed at the telcos for assessing you that fee and not doing their duty? Well, surprise, that is a government assessted tax which the gov’t requires the telco to collect for it. That money gets passed straight to gov’t for the purpose of funding the E911 improvements in the Emergency Response Call Centers. Yeah, that’s right, the telcos are supposed to fund their own E911 improvements, then collect a tax to give to the gov’t to fund their improvements. Then the gov’t frittered away those funds by spending on other items like police boots, pens, uniforms as Carlos said. See:


Yes, get angry. Just get angry at the right people.

Anonymous Coward says:

You guys are missing the Big Picture

Locating cell phones is not for E911. That is just an excuse so Big Brother can know where everyone is all the time!

The only emergency benefit is when there is an emergency, the only person to call 911 uses a cell phone and that person (and everyone with him) is too clueless to know where he is.

On the other hand, resistance is REALLY futile if Big Brother knows where everyone is and can (and as we are finding out does) easily listen in on every telephonic communication.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Analog Phones Are SAFER In Some Rural Areas

CDMA carriers chose a handset-based solution for locating subscribers. That means it requires users have a newish (less than 5 yr old) digital CDMA handset with aGPS built-in. But scads of rural customers absolutely refuse to upgrade their 1990’s era analog cellphones. Why? They correctly know that these old-school, 3-Watt, battery-killing bandwidth hogs actually DO get better reception in areas where the towers are far away. So these customers (which cost the carriers more to support because analog isn’t digitally compressed) don’t upgrade to the newer phones, and can’t be located with aGPS cuz they ain’t got none. I also imagine there’s a few libertarians among that group who just don’t want aGPS.

This is a CONSUMER CHOICE. And not a bad one. Think about it: would you rather be in a car wreck and have an analog phone which CAN make a 911 call, or a digital phone which COULD HAVE made a 911 call with GPS data, but can’t get a signal?

The government isn’t trying to push around Sprint or Alltel, they are trying to force decisions on citizens so that they can find out where you are.

The CDMA carriers should only be required to send their analog customers a very clear letter about the risk and trade-offs they are making by using an analog phone, which requires a confirmation from the user that they choose and accept these risks.

The GSM carriers use network TRILATERATION to determine handset location (people who call it triangulation are wrong). With 3 or more towers in range, this works. But it doesn’t work when fewer than 3 towers are in range, and it offers less accuracy than aGPS. So both solutions have their pros and cons.

Russ Hoss says:

Get your facts right!!!

Look everyone, take it from me, I work in an E911 dispatch center for the last eleven years. Most of the people who call 911 DO NOT know where they are. Plus if you go on vacation do you know EXACTLY where you are at all times? Phase II compliant, (which is what everyone is talking about) is something that is TOTALLY the fault of the cell phone companies! Not “big brother” watching you. And, if your not doing anything wrong does it matter who is watching you? In my area there was no system testing until April of this year, which was another deadline imposed by the FCC. It’s purely the case of the cell carriers not wanting to part with their money until the last possible minute. It is true that we, 911 centers, get a portion of the money from cell bills but our slice is not that much. The majority goes to “Infrastructure building and mantenance.” I have personally assisted in the safe return of children, assisting the elderly in disabled vehicles, and countless other TIME CRITICAL measures that if it were not for Phase II compliant carriers the outcomes could have been MUCH MUCH worse. I’ll name names here, the carrier my area is Alltel and I agree with the person earlier, it’s triangulation that finds callers. Just ask the Allies in World War II how they found German bombers.

RandomThoughts (user link) says:

A year or so back, some kids jumped in a boat and went out in the bay near NYC. They ran into trouble and called 911. They were talking to emergency workers, but of course they didn’t know where they were (sometimes you need help when you are lost). The kids died.

Another case in the NYC area, some guy got mugged, beaten and left for dead. He called from his cell phone but couldn’t tell emergency workers where he was. It was winter, so of course, he died.

As for the triangulation, what happens when your signal is only hitting 1 tower?

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