On January 26, 2024, the FCC released the Report and Order (“R&O”) adopting rules requiring Commercial Mobile Radio Service (“CMRS”) providers to deploy location-based routing (“LBR”) technology to route IP-originated wireless 911 calls and real-time-text (“RTT”) communications to the appropriate public safety answering point (“PSAP”). The R&O was adopted at the January Open Meeting.
Specifically, the FCC adopts the following rules and requirements in the R&O:
- Location-Based Routing of Wireless 911 Calls: The FCC requires all CMRS providers to (1) deploy technology that supports LBR on their IP-based networks (i.e. 4G LTE, 5G, and subsequent generations of IP-based networks), and (2) use LBR to route all wireless 911 voice calls originating on their IP-based networks when location information meets certain requirements for accuracy and timeliness (described below). LBR technologies must be deployed across the CMRS provider’s entire IP-based network and CMRS providers are required to use LBR to route calls to PSAPs nationwide. LBR is not required for 911 calls originating on circuit-switched, time division multiplex (“TDM”) networks.
- Compliance: Nationwide CMRS providers are required to comply with the LBR requirements for voice calls within six months after the effective date of the final rules. Non-nationwide providers are required to comply with the LBR requirements for voice calls within 24 months after the effective date of the final rules. The Commission notes that individual CMRS providers that encounter unique or unusual factual circumstances that support a lengthier timeline may seek a waiver under the FCC’s rules.
- Modification of Deadlines by Agreement: For PSAPs that may require special attention or extra time to implement LBR, the PSAP and CMRS provider may set, by mutual consent, deadlines to implement location-based routing in the PSAP’s jurisdiction that are different from those otherwise established by the rules, including extending the implementation deadline. This may not be used to delay implementation and deployment of LBR indefinitely. In the event that a PSAP and provider agree to an alternate timeframe, the CMRS provider must notify the FCC of the agreed-to dates within 30 days of the parties’ agreement or 30 days from the effective date of the final rules, whichever is later. The CMRS provider must subsequently notify the FCC of the actual date by which it comes into compliance with the LBR requirements within 30 days of that actual date of compliance or 30 days from the effective date of the final rules, whichever is later.
- Location-Based Routing of RTT Communications to 911: The FCC requires all nationwide and non-nationwide CMRS providers to deploy and use location-based routing for RTT communications to 911 within 24 months from the effective date of the final rules. The FCC explicitly declined to extend the LBR rules to SMS text messages or to interconnected text providers. The FCC also clarified that the rule is not intended to expand CMRS providers’ existing obligations to deploy RTT capabilities to PSAPs beyond what is already required by the FCC.
- Compliance: All CMRS providers are required to implement location-based routing for RTT within 24 months after the effective date of the final rules. Providers are encouraged to adopt LBR for RTT before the 24-month deadline if feasible.
- Timeliness and Accuracy of LBR Information: the FCC requires CMRS providers to use LBR for wireless 911 calls and RTT communications to 911 when the location information available to the CMRS provider’s network at the time of routing is ascertainable within a radius of 165 meters at a confidence level of at least 90%. This applies equally to both estimated civic addresses and coordinate-based location information. If a CMRS provider has access to either an estimated civic address or coordinate-based location that represents a horizontal location uncertainty level of the device within a radius of 165 meters at a confidence level of at least 90% and that location is available at time of routing, the CMRS provider must use such information to comply with the Commission’s location-based routing rules.
- Best Available Location Information: If location information meeting the above threshold is not available at the time of routing, CMRS providers are required to use the “best available” location information to route the call. This “best available” location information may include, but is not limited to, device-based location information that does not meet the accuracy threshold, tower-based location information, or other location information.
- Relevant Definitions: The FCC adopted the following definitions:
- Location-Based Routing: The use of information on the location of a device, including but not limited to device-based location information, to deliver 911 calls and texts to point(s) designated by the authorized local or state entity to receive wireless 911 calls and texts, such as an Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network (ESInet) or PSAP, or to an appropriate local emergency authority.
- Device-Based Location Information: Information regarding the location of a device used to call or text 911 generated all or in part from on-device sensors and data sources.
- Certification and Reporting: The FCC requires CMRS providers to file the below within sixty (60) days after their LBR deployment deadline. Providers may request confidentiality for these filings under the FCC’s rules.
- Certification of Compliance: The FCC requires CMRS providers to certify that they are in compliance with the LBR requirements applicable to them within sixty days after their respective compliance deadlines. CMRS providers are required to substantiate compliance by identifying specific network architecture, systems, location validation, and procedures used to comply with the LBR requirements.
- Privacy and Security Certification: CMRS providers are required to certify that neither they nor any third party they rely on to obtain location information or associated data used for compliance with the LBR requirements will use such information or associated data for any non-911 purpose, except with prior express consent or as otherwise required by law. The certification must state that the CMRS providers and any third parties they rely on to obtain location information or associated data used for compliance with the LBR requirements have implemented measures sufficient to safeguard the privacy and security of such information.
- One-Time Report on Live 911 Call Location Data: CMRS providers are also required to collect and report, on a one-time basis, aggregate data on the routing technologies used for live 911 calls in the locations specified for live 911 call location data in section 9.10(i)(3)(ii) of the FCC’s rules. Providers will be required to collect and report on (1) the number and percentage of wireless 911 voice calls routed with device-based location information that meets the above accuracy threshold criteria; (2) the number and percentage of wireless 911 voice calls routed with device-based location information that exceeds the threshold; and (3) the number and percentage of wireless 911 voice calls routed by tower-based routing. CMRS providers must collect these data for a thirty-day period beginning on the applicable compliance date.
- Defers Consideration of Delivery of 911 Calls in IP Format: The FCC deferred consideration of requiring CMRS providers and covered text providers to deliver 911 calls, texts, and associated routing information in IP format upon request of 911 authorities who have established the capability to accept NG911-compatible IP-based 911 communications. The FCC agreed that consolidating this issue into the NG911 proceeding would better align the requirements for NG911 services across different providers and avoid confusion among stakeholders.
- Cost Benefit Analysis for Location-Based Routing: The FCC finds that LBR has the potential to bring annual benefits of over $173 billion in reduced mortality, saving 13,837 lives annually, and reduced call transfer burdens to PSAPs by reducing the number of misrouted calls by 1,368,000 annually. By contrast, the FCC concludes that the costs to CMRS providers will be $215 million, consisting of approximately $10,000 for each CMRS provider per PSAP in material costs and $336,600 in labor per CMRS provider.
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