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The FCC will force wireless carriers to track indoor 911 calls

The FCC will force wireless carriers to track indoor 911 calls


The commission voted unanimously

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There's been a long-recognized gap in 911 call response. If you make an emergency call from a landline or while you're outside, emergency operators can track the call with some degree of accuracy. Indoors, however, no federal regulations exist. It's a loophole that's arguably led to some harrowing moments, but the FCC is finally moving to close it. The commission voted unanimously today to approve a new standard for call tracking.

AT&T said the rules would "waste scarce resources"

Under the newly approved rules, within two years, carriers will need to give an indoor position within 50 meters in 40 percent of cases. Within five years, under the new rules, the location will have to be accurate in 70 percent of cases.

The major carriers proposed a voluntary roadmap for improving tracking, but fought against outright regulation in filings sent to the FCC. AT&T, at the time, said the proposal would "waste scarce resources." Others, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have since expressed concern that tracking regulations could unnecessarily invade privacy. Commissioner Mike O’Rielly approved the rule but similarly feared the government would be able to "pinpoint the location of law-abiding Americans" using the new rules.

The Find Me 911 Coalition, a group that has pushed the FCC for stricter regulations, said in a statement to The Verge that the new rules didn't go far enough. "While the rule claims to improve indoor accuracy, there appear to be no indoor-specific requirements in it, only a 'blended' indoor-outdoor standard that allows the carriers to take credit for their outdoor location performance," Jamie Barnett, Executive Director of the Find Me 911 Coalition said in the statement. "Thus, the phone companies can meet all of their obligations for years or longer without implementing any new technologies or finding any more indoor callers."

Correction: An earlier version of this story included incorrect figures for tracking accuracy. The story has been updated.