FCC update would track indoor 911 cell calls

Emergency responders could more easily locate people who call 911 from their cellphones while indoors under changes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering.

The FCC is moving forward with a location accuracy rule it voted on last month that would help 911 operators track cellphone calls inside homes and offices. The agency will publish the proposed rule in Friday's edition of the Federal Register.

More and more people are calling from their cellphones, the agency noted, and responders are often able to track outdoor calls, as well as those from landlines.

"But if you call 911 from a wireless phone indoors, you should cross your fingers and hope and pray, because no location accuracy standards apply," FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said at a hearing last month.

"This is an unacceptable gap in our policies," she added.

In response, the FCC is moving forward with a program that will require wireless companies such as Verizon and AT&T to give 911 operators detailed information about the location of people who call from within a building.

The issue seems to have attracted congressional attention.

Earlier this year, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, asking him to make sure 911 operators have access to the location of people who call from their cellphones while indoors.

A Senate subcommittee also held a hearing focusing on the issue.

But the FCC's two Republicans said they were concerned that cellphone companies like Verizon and AT&T do not have the technical capabilities to comply with such rules.

"It is unfair to saddle them with obligations that cannot be met," FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said at the hearing last month.