September 8, 2000
|Re:||Revision of the Commission's Rules To Ensure Compatibility with Enhanced 911 Emergency Calling Systems, CC Docket No. 94-102 (rel. Sept. 8, 2000)|
We respectfully dissent from the decision to grant VoiceStream a waiver of our enhanced 911 (E911) Phase II location identification rules. We would have preferred to seek public comment on VoiceStream's request to better understand the consequences for VoiceStream customers and E911 deployment generally.
As Americans increasingly rely on wireless services, the ability of wireless callers to reach public safety agencies - and these agencies' ability to locate the callers - becomes ever more important. Given the critical nature of emergency 911 services, sound public policy dictates that any proposal to significantly alter Phase II implementation warrants public comment on the details of the alteration. VoiceStream's request, however, is contained in a series of ex parte presentations and has not been made subject to sufficient public review and consideration. Even more troubling is our concern that today's action may, in effect, create an alternative Phase II implementation track for carriers inclined to seek new E911 solutions in lieu of prompt deployment under our existing rules.
Last fall, in light of technology developments that allow for handset-based location solutions, we modified our Phase II rules to include a second deployment track for handset-based approaches. Our decision came after exhaustive deliberation, involving the balancing of trade-offs such as the handset phase-in and the benefit of increased accuracy levels.
The decision here allows one carrier to pursue an alternative Phase II deployment track absent, we're afraid, a clear understanding of the consequences involved. The VoiceStream waiver, based on the GSM technology deployed by VoiceStream, inevitably invites other carriers to offer similar showings. The action here, fashioned as a waiver, may have the effect of a rule change, and thus should have warranted public notice and ample public scrutiny and consideration.
In the end, it is possible that VoiceStream's approach properly balances the goal of ensuring wireless location capability with the technological realities carriers confront in E911 deployment. Its hybrid system is intended to provide a safety net location solution for all wireless callers in VoiceStream's service area, while promising to reach the handset-based accuracy levels by October 2003. We do not question VoiceStream's commitment to E911 but continue to have questions about its hybrid approach. It is not clear that VoiceStream's proposal will reach the Commission's proscribed accuracy standards. Additionally, there is some question whether VoiceStream's proposal is the only viable option for GSM carriers, thus necessitating a waiver. Ultimately, we are concerned that in light of today's decision other carriers - whether deploying GSM or other modulation technologies - may choose to focus on seeking a waiver rather than rapidly implementing E911 consistent with our accuracy and deployment requirements. After significant deliberations to create and revise our E911 rules, the VoiceStream request warranted rigorous public examination.