- The ability to validate and register a person’s address in the 9-1-1 database upon turn-up of their voice service
- The ability to correctly route an emergency call to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP)
- The ability to provide the location information associated with the telephone number calling 9-1-1
In general, the public takes this ability for granted and assumes that when ‘9-1-1’ is dialed, whether from a wireline, VoIP, or wireless phone, the location information is transmitted to the correct PSAP. However, due to an aging 9-1-1 infrastructure designed in the 1970s for wireline, E9-1-1 coverage is inadequate for many of today’s commonly used communication technologies.
As a result, incumbent 9-1-1 providers are scrambling to come up with solutions on the fly, resulting in several non-integrated, non-standard networks for VoIP and wireless, and still no solution for other existing technologies like text, video, and telematics.
The 40-year old infrastructure is circuit-switched and challenged in handling modern internet-based or digital communication technologies. 9-1-1 routing and translation tables are manually administered, thereby prone to errors up to 20% and at times taking two weeks or more to update.
According to the November 21, 2008 CRS Report for Congress – Emergency Communications: The Future of 9-1-1, “Today’s 9-1-1 system is built on an infrastructure of analog technology that does not support many of the features that most Americans expect are part of an emergency response. Efforts to splice newer, digital technologies onto this aging infrastructure have created points of failure where a call can be dropped or misdirected, sometimes with tragic consequences.”
The safety repercussions created by the limited infrastructure have forced the 9-1-1 community to take a look at how to transition 9-1-1 systems to accommodate the expectations of the general public as well as the emerging technologies of today and the future
Current E911 Mandates per the FCC:
While we are not lawyers and cannot provide you with legal advice, we still think we know a thing or two about 9-1-1.
Wireless Communications & Public Safety Act of 1999
The purpose of the 9-1-1 Act is to improve public safety by encouraging and facilitating the prompt deployment of a nationwide, seamless communications infrastructure for emergency services.
One provision of the 9-1-1 Act directs the FCC to make 9-1-1 the universal emergency number for all telephone services. Where other emergency numbers had been used, the FCC was directed to establish appropriate transition periods for areas in which 9-1-1 was not in use as an emergency telephone number.
Based on these reports, virtually all carriers now use 9-1-1 as the universal emergency number and route 9-1-1 calls to an appropriate PSAP. However, emergency services through a PSAP may not be available in all localities.
Phase I and Phase II Wireless
The FCC has divided its wireless E9-1-1 program into two parts – Phase I and Phase II. Under Phase I, the FCC requires carriers, within six months of a valid request by a local PSAP, to provide the PSAP with the telephone number of the originator of a wireless 9-1-1 call and the location of the cell site or base station transmitting the call.
Under Phase II, the FCC requires wireless carriers, within six months of a valid request by a PSAP, to begin providing information that is more precise to PSAPs, specifically, the latitude and longitude of the caller. This information must meet FCC accuracy standards, generally to within 50 to 300 meters, depending on the type of technology used.
May 2005 VoIP E911 Rules
In May 2005, the FCC adopted rules requiring providers of interconnected VoIP services to supply 9-1-1 emergency calling capabilities to their customers as a mandatory feature of the service by November 28, 2005. “Interconnected” VoIP services are VoIP services that allow a user to generally receive calls from and make calls to the traditional telephone network:
- All interconnected VoIP providers must automatically provide 9-1-1 service to all their customers as a standard, mandatory feature without customers having to request this service. VoIP providers may not allow their customers to “opt-out” of 9-1-1 service.
- Before an interconnected VoIP provider can activate a new customer’s service, the provider must obtain from the customer the physical location at which the service will first be used, so that emergency services personnel will be able to locate any customer dialing 9-1-1. Interconnected VoIP providers must also provide one or more easy ways for their customers to update the physical location they have registered with the provider, if it changes.
- Interconnected VoIP providers must transmit all 9-1-1 calls, as well as a callback number and the caller’s registered physical location, to the appropriate emergency services call center or local emergency authority.
May 2007 VoIP 711 Rules
FCC rules require all telephone companies (including wireline, wireless, and payphone providers) that operate private branch exchanges (PBXs) to implement three-digit 7-1-1 dialing for access to TRS (Telecommunications Relay Services).
The FCC recently determined that providers of interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service also must offer 7-1-1 abbreviated dialing.
For more information on FCC 9-1-1 mandates:
For more information on Next Generation 9-1-1:
National Emergency Number Association:
The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials: