A Seattle company has created model legislation that wireless carriers can use to convince state legislators to create a dedicated wireless E-911 fund administered at the state level.
“We have met with numerous carriers and there is a feeling that the state-level fund is the way to go,” said Reuven Carlyle, vice president for external affairs of Xypoint Corp.
Seattle-based Xypoint has two objectives in helping carriers. The company hopes to be an industry-wide provider of emergency 911 services, connecting with the wireless carrier’s switch to deliver automatic location identification to the public safety answering point.
“And we have done this because someone needed to do the quality staff work and collect the data,” Carlyle said.
The Federal Communications Commission ruled this summer that all wireless carriers were required to work with PSAPs in their coverage areas to develop a wireless E-911 system.
Landline phone calls arrive at the PSAP computers with the address of the telephone’s location. Mobile phone calls to E-911 arrive without an address, and emergency officials say this causes problems in both locating the emergency and verifying its validity.
The federal government has charged the wireless industry and PSAPs nationwide with solving this problem. The government did not, however, outline how the project should be funded or who should pay for it; the FCC only stated that a “cost recovery mechanism” should be created.
It would be “an administrative and logistical nightmare” to ask carriers to make funding arrangements with every separate county that operates a PSAP in their large coverage areas, Carlyle said.
“There needs to be some public involvement. Wireless carriers should be treated the same as the landline system was when 911 was created,” Carlyle said.
Phase I of wireless E-911 must be completed by April 1, 1998. Phase I will provide the PSAP with the wireless caller’s 10-digit phone number and cell-site location.
Completing Phase I won’t be difficult for wireless carriers, because the technology exists and it can be carried out in time, Carlyle said.
Phase II is more worrisome. It requires wireless carriers to deliver by Oct. 1, 2001, the caller’s latitude and longitude within a radius of no more than 125 meters in 67 percent of all cases.
“It’s very important that the wireless 911 fund be administered at the state level, because it leaves the door open that if the legislature wants to contribute to the fund, the mechanism is in place. Phase II will be very expensive,” Carlyle said.
Fifteen states already have created some sort of cost recovery for wireless E-911. Twenty-seven states are expected to start legislative activity on the matter in 1997, Xypoint said.
Xypoint’s model legislation also addresses the matter of indemnification, stating “it is in the public interest to extend immunity by statute to all telecommunications companies that provide E-911 service, whether wireline or wireless.”
The last paragraph in the document states: “Nothing in this act shall be construed to constitute rate regulation of wireless carriers, nor shall this act be construed to prohibit wireless carriers from charging subscribers for any wireless service or feature.”
Details from the proposed act include:
Each wireless carrier shall remit the surcharge revenues collected from its subscribers on a quarterly basis to the [state treasurer] for deposit in the wireless E-911 fund after the wireless carrier has deducted any authorized rates and recurring costs associated with E-911.
The fund is authorized to disburse funds to any legally authorized person or entity for reimbursement of costs; the acquisition, upgrade or modification of PSAP equipment; for network operation, development or maintenance; database operation, development or maintenance; on-premise equipment; training; and educating consumers. Funds not expended at the end of the fiscal year must be carried forward.