Telecommunications: Uneven Implementation of Wireless Enhanced 911 Raises Prospect of Piecemeal Availability for Years to Come   [open pdf - 1MB]

Concerns have been raised about the pace of Enhanced 911 (E911) implementation and whether this service, which determines a caller's geographic location at the moment a 911 call is made, will be available for mobile phones nationwide. GAO reviewed the progress being made in implementing wireless E911 service, the factors affecting this progress, and the role of the federal government in facilitating the nationwide deployment of wireless E911 service. Successful implementation depends on coordinated efforts by wireless carriers, local telephone companies, and more than 6,000 public safety answering points (PSAPs)--the facilities that receive 911 calls and dispatch assistance. As of October 2003, nearly 65 percent of PSAPs had Phase I wireless E911 service, which provides the approximate location of the caller, while only 18 percent had Phase II, which provides a more precise location and is the ultimate goal of wireless E911 service. 24 state 911 contacts reported that their state will have Phase II implemented by 2005 or sooner. Key factors hindering wireless E911 implementation involve funding and coordination. Wireless carriers, states, and localities must devise the means to fund more than $8 billion in estimated deployment costs over the next 5 years. DOT is developing an action plan and clearinghouse for wireless E911 planning, implementation, and operations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set deadlines on the wireless carriers' E911 responsibilities and has taken actions to identify best practices and improve coordination among the parties. DOT and FCC, however, have limited authority in overseeing deployment because PSAPs traditionally fall under state and local jurisdiction.

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Government Accountability Office (GAO): http://www.gao.gov/
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