The FCC has adopted a Public Notice seeking to update its understanding of the state of technology capable of routing wireless 911 calls to the proper 911 call center.

More precise routing can accelerate response times. The press release offers an example of the type of situation they seek to handle more fluidly: If a 911 call is made near a county or city border, the nearest cell tower may be in the neighboring jurisdiction.

If the call goes to this tower, it goes to a call center – or public safety answering point (PSAP) – in the neighboring jurisdiction. It therefore must be re-rerouted to the call center within the caller’s jurisdiction. This wastes crucial time.

In 2018, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry asking for comments on the feasibility of routing 911 calls based on caller location, not the location of the cell tower that handles the call.

The FCC says that there have been advances in location-based routing technology and some implementations of such approaches on wireless networks. The action today seeks updates on the progress and raises a number of questions and issues:

  • Improvements to and implementation of location-based routing technologies
  • The frequency of misrouted wireless 911 calls
  • Operations or industry standards to address the problem of misroutes
  • The feasibility of using location-based routing technologies for text-to-911
  • Information on any interdependencies of location-based routing and Next Generation 911 in order to optimize emergency response
  • How the Commission can facilitate improvements to wireless 911 call routing.

Last month, AT&T began rolling out location-based routing that, according to the carrier, automatically transmits wireless 911 calls to the appropriate call center. The “Locate Before Route” feature, which used technology from Intrado, uses GPS and hybrid information to route the call to the proper 911 call center. The nationwide rollout will be completed by the end of this month, AT&T says.

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