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Separate Statement of Chairman William E. Kennard

Revision of the FCC's Rules to Ensure Compatibility with Enhanced 911
Emergency Calling Systems, CC Docket 94-102, Memorandum Opinion and Order
December 1, 1997

Today, the FCC reaffirmed its commitment to the rapid implementation of technologies needed to bring emergency help to wireless callers throughout the United States. In view of the importance of this action for public safety, I want to take this opportunity to state my commitment to ensuring that wireless callers are able to reach emergency services when they need them, and to ensuring that, as soon as possible, wireless 911 callers receive the same location and call-back benefits of enhanced 911 systems that wireline callers currently receive.

The Order the Commission adopted today takes a common sense approach to public safety. Making 911 and enhanced 911 service available to wireless callers will help emergency service providers respond to people in emergency situations as quickly and as effectively as possible. Under the Commission's Order, wireless carriers subject to the 911 rules will be required to transmit all wireless 911 calls (from both subscribers and non-subscribers) to emergency assistance providers or Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). When it comes to helping people in emergency situations, we have an obligation to do all that we can to make sure that there are no impediments to their receiving help. Assuring prompt delivery of emergency 911 calls from whatever source, without delay, best serves the public interest.

I would also like to state my commitment to ensuring that persons with disabilities have the same access to telecommunications services, including emergency services, as the rest of the American people. While we were forced by the record in this proceeding to defer the obligation of wireless carriers to transmit 911 TTY calls made on digital systems, I call upon the industry to work with persons with disabilities and the organizations that represent them to resolve the technical problems that make this impossible at this time. I am concerned that the wireless industry has not yet been able to solve the problem of transmitting TTY calls over digital systems. I intend to monitor the efforts of the industry to work with persons with disabilities to ensure that sufficient progress is made to solve this problem. We all must do everything we can to make sure that no segment of our community is left behind when it comes to telecommunications and emergency services.

I am pleased that our order reaffirms our commitment to making enhanced 911 service available for wireless callers. In most places, emergency service teams have the ability to locate a 911 wireline caller and the ability to return that person's call. The Commission today reaffirms the deadlines for the rules for enhanced 911 services that will move us closer to making this a reality for wireless callers as well.

The rules we affirm respecting wireless E-911 move us closer to the day when wireless telephony will be viewed by consumers as a complete substitute for wireline telephony. Our rules are also technology-neutral, and encourage the development of efficient and effective methods for reporting the location of calls placed from wireless phones. This is important if we are to encourage innovation within the industry. I look forward to working with industry, public safety groups, consumer groups, and consumers on this issue.

Finally, the Order we adopt today finishes the task of putting in place the basic building blocks of 911 and enhanced 911 services for wireless calls. We now must turn our attention to the issues that remain before us to refine the wireless 911 and enhanced 911 system, and that were raised in the Further Notice in this proceeding. One such issue of great importance to me is the issue of whether we should require that wireless 911 calls be sent to a PSAP by the wireless system with the strongest control channel signal. Supporters of this proposal have argued that it would provide a solution to situations where one carrier has a "blank spot" in its radio system but other carriers can provide coverage. I am committed to resolving the issues surrounding this proposal as soon as possible, so that a viable solution to the problem of "blank spots" can be implemented. Public safety demands that the industry work closely with public safety groups and consumer advocates to forge such a solution. I will make this Further Notice issue a priority, and will be closely monitoring efforts to forge technical solutions for effecting the "strongest signal" proposal.