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FCC to require option of GPS phones for 911 by 2018

updated 07:45 pm EDT, Tue October 4, 2011

FCC wants GPS always an option on carriers

The FCC put forward new rule Tuesday that required carriers to offer phones with built-in GPS. Its mandate will have cellular, landline, and VoIP providers have positioning to help find them in a 911 call no later than 2018. Carriers won't have to limit themselves to GPS-aware phones after the cutoff, possibly softening worries that the government might track anyone with a phone.

The FCC argued that the policy is more to take advantage of existing trends than force a change in attitude. About 85 percent of cellphones, already the dominant form of calling in the US, are expected to have GPS by the 2018 target. VoIP is the largest exception and is being instituted as VoIP is moving away from its original role as an extension of or substitute for a landline, such as with Vonage and many cable providers, to a mobile option. Google Talk, Google Voice, Skype, and other platforms now make mobile the highest priority.

Officials will need to greenlight the new rule.

A call for GPS is part of a much larger 911 modernization drive at the FCC based on newer technology, especially from smartphones. With GPS, the US agency believes that lives could be saved by finding callers faster. Photos, texting, and video might also help by giving better visual references and, in potentially deadly criminal situations, warn the police without tipping off an attacker.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. jfgilbert

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2010


    Great news

    At least the FCC thinks that the US government will still have employees to take 911 calls in 2018. It shows that they are optimists, or they do not watch the political debates.

  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jul 2006


    VoIP & finding people

    This might prove a waste of money. Quite a few VoIP phones will be in locations where they won't be able to see GPS satellites. They'd also be more easily traced with using their IP address, which in the case of broadband, will correlate directly to a street address.

    This time would also be better spend clarifying who can get cellular information when someone disappears. In Seattle, we've had a couple of cases where a husband and parents couldn't get that information. In one case, the wife, injured in a auto accident that left her out of sight of any road, was found just before she would have died of exposure. In the other case, a college student has yet to be found.

    Cellular registration should come with a list of people who can authorize the release of location tracking data.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Junior Member

    Joined: Apr 1999



    Seems like a great idea. As for privacy concerns, government agencies can already track anyone with a cellphone at their discretion, so we might as well derive some benefit, giving rescue services the same level of access as the less servile branches of government.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Re: Great news

    The US Government does not man 911 operations. That is a local/county/state thing.

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