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FCC rejects E-911 compliance extension

WASHINGTON-The Federal Communications Commission rejected the mobile-phone industry’s petition for regulatory relief from the recently passed deadline for meeting enhanced 911 handset-based location requirements, sending non-compliance of Sprint Nextel Corp. and other carriers to the agency’s enforcement bureau for further action.
The FCC, agreeing with public safety organizations, said suspending the Dec. 31, 2006, deadline for carriers to achieve 95 percent penetration and devising a new compliance approach “would render meaningless the handset penetration requirement.”
Cellphone carrier association CTIA and the Rural Cellular Association filed a joint petition seeking changes in June 2005.
The FCC said granting generalized relief would run counter to the commission’s case-by-case analysis of E-911 waiver requests. “Delay in achieving the required handset penetration level could impair the delivery of safety-of-life services to the public,” the FCC stated.
CTIA and Sprint Nextel chose not comment today on the FCC rulings.
Rural cellular carriers said there are factors in E-911 compliance they cannot always influence.
“While the result is disappointing RCA appreciates the thoughtful consideration given to the petition and hopes the commission will recognize case-by-case, that some rural wireless carriers still face problems beyond their control in meeting the 95% penetration level,” the rural cellular trade group stated. “It is not unusual for rural carriers to have difficulty persuading customers to stop using high-power mobile units where low-power handhelds do not provide useful service area in rural areas.”
Some wireless carriers did not meet the Dec. 31 E-911 Phase II handset-location deadline, but for various reasons the FCC did not refer them to enforcement for review.
“We’re still looking at the orders, but it looks like the FCC agreed with the comment we filed,” said Robert Gurss, director of legal and government affairs for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International.

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