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Getting Ever Closer to Solving Wireless 911 Location Accuracy

Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote a blog announcing that he has circulated an order that, per the tentative agenda also announced yesterday, would “ensure that accurate caller location information is automatically provided to public safety officials for all wireless calls to 911, including for indoor calls, to meet consumer and public safety needs and expectations, and to take advantage of new technological developments.”

The Chairman’s action, and the extensive work of the Public Safety Bureau leading up to this order, are commendable.  This all began with a well-considered set of proposals by the Commission early last year, along with an invitation to public safety, industry, and other stakeholders to develop alternative proposals.  We at APCO are very proud that we answered this call, with the Roadmap we developed with our partners at NENA and the four largest wireless carriers that, as the Chairman eloquently described, is “a novel approach that has the potential to close the readiness gap through use of known locations of indoor wireless nodes” and “will ultimately result in capabilities that will evolve with the continued change anticipated in the number of ways consumers might call for help in the future.”

Central to the Roadmap, and APCO’s strong belief that it represents the best and most effective path towards solving the indoor location problem, is its emphasis on achieving a “dispatchable location.”  Dispatchable location – defined in the Roadmap to mean the “civic address of the calling party plus additional information such as floor, suite, apartment or similar information that may be needed to adequately identify the location of the calling party” – represents public safety’s gold standard of indoor location accuracy and will provide the equivalent of a landline telephone call.

Public safety has waited long enough.  The time for all stakeholders to join APCO and its Roadmap partners to aggressively pursue and implement nothing short of a dispatchable location solution is right now.  It is time to break public safety out of the cycle of substandard proprietary solutions trailing technological advancements enjoyed in the consumer marketplace.  It is time to depart from position estimates that are increasingly successful outdoors but inside buildings can leave responders searching for those who need help.  People in need of emergency assistance, 911 call takers, 911 dispatchers, and first responders need to know the “door to kick down” plain and simple.

Chairman Wheeler is helping to set us on this path.  We will look forward to reviewing his proposals.  Any ideas that would make the Roadmap even more effective, including reaching our gold standard of dispatchable location, will be most welcome.