May 13, 1999
Today nearly 100,000 emergency calls will be made from a wireless phone. 70 calls a minute -- 70 calls to save a life, or stop a crime. Wireless networks have brought great benefits to the consumer, dramatically increasing access to our families and our work. But the sense of security we gain from having a wireless phone is often the main reason we invest in purchasing one. Given the vital safety role that wireless phones play, it is incumbent on the Commission and the carriers alike to ensure that we remove any artificial obstacles to the completion of all 911 calls.
By requiring new analog cellular phones to use the alternative cellular network, if necessary, to complete an emergency call, we do precisely that. In this Order we set forth principles for 911 completion, and approve three proposals that comply with these principles. I hope that this flexibility will allow carriers to adopt one or multiple methods best tailored to their network and the needs of their customers.
While each of these methods will result in a higher rate of call completion, I recognize that
some calls will not go through. Our ruling will not affect the millions of handsets in use today.
And portions of our country have no cellular coverage whatsoever. But this Order will aid those
in rural and suburban areas, where coverage within each cell drops significantly from the urban
average of 90%. In such instances, the consumer will receive the benefit of access to both
networks to complete a 911 call. While I will continue to look for additional means to improve
emergency access, I am pleased by the progress we make today.