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FCC OKs Rules to Ease Cellular 911 Calls

May 14, 1999|Bloomberg News

Federal regulators approved new rules aimed at increasing the likelihood that emergency 911 calls made from cellular phones will be completed. Cellular phone customers' local calls are now carried only by their own service providers. If a life-saving 911 call is made in a "dead zone," it won't get through to emergency services. The Federal Communications Commission approved a plan requiring new cellular phones to have software within nine months to route 911 calls to another carrier if they can't be completed. Most areas are served by two cellular phone companies, so if one company couldn't put through a call because of buildings, terrain or the lack of cellular towers, the other might succeed. The new rules will apply only to analog cellular phones and to dual-mode phones when they're operating in analog. It's not yet technically possible to switch 911 calls from one digital system to another. The rules will apply only to new phones sold in stores and not to those already in customers' hands. The cellular phone industry praised the decision for not locking the industry and public safety officials into one particular technology for solving the problem.

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