Every second matters in an emergency 911 call, but out-of-date regulations may be slowing first responders down. Last updated in 2010, FCC rules mandates that phone carriers provide a caller's location within 50 to 300 meters, but those requirements only apply outdoors, since, in the FCC's own words, "indoor use poses unique obstacles." GPS has improved tracking significantly, but it might still be off, sending paramedics to the wrong floor, or even the wrong building. The FCC recently proposed new rules for more accurate indoor tracking — and carriers have expressed their displeasure.
Within five years, the location would have to be accurate in 80 percent of cases
Mother Jones has flagged some of the complaints sent to the FCC since the announcement of the proposal in February. Most of the complaints from phone carriers strike the same register: implementing the technology would be hard, expensive, and only a stopgap solution. AT&T said the proposal would "waste scarce resources."
As anyone who's cracked open Google Maps in an apartment can tell you, location tracking tech isn't perfect, but the FCC's proposals don't sound especially taxing: the agency is asking carriers to give a position within 50 meters horizontally and three meters vertically for 67 percent of indoor calls within two years of the new regulations. That's enough to roughly place paramedics or police on the correct floor of an apartment building, if not the room. Within five years, the location would have to be accurate in 80 percent of cases.
Already, carriers are rolling out the ability to text for 911, but getting better at indoor tracking would cost money, which critics say is motivating companies to fight. As the argument continues, 75 percent of 911 calls recently placed in California were from mobile phones.