FCC calls for cell phone locator service

Steve Henn May 31, 2007

TEXT OF STORYMARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Today the FCC may propose a new rule. It would ensure that when you dial 9-1-1 on your cell phone, police, firefighters and ambulance drivers will know where you’re calling from. Marketplace’s Steve Henn reports.

STEVE HENN: You’re lost. You’re in an accident. You call 9-1-1 from your cell, but how are the police going to find you?

Cell phone companies are supposed to be able to locate nearly any customer who makes a 9-1-1 call, but this doesn’t always work.

Gregory Rhode is executive director of the E9-1-1 Institute.

GREGORY RHODE: Right now half the country, geographically speaking, does not have access, does not have E9-1-1 when they dial 9-1-1 from a cell phone.

Two hundred and forty thousand 9-1-1 calls come in from wireless phones every day.

Today, the FCC is likely to propose a rule that would mandate precise locations for 95 percent of emergency cell phone calls coming into every call center in the country.

The cell phone industry says that might not be possible. They’ve already spent more than $1.2 billion and aren’t really close.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.