AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile settle with FCC over location data standoff

By John Hendel  POLITICO

AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile will each pay $100,000 to settle FCC investigations into the wireless carriers’ noncompliance with 2015 rules mandating they supply more granular customer 911 location data in the country’s 25 largest markets by this past April, the agency announced on Thursday.

Looking up: The FCC had demanded carriers provide more specific information to 911 call centers about how high up a caller might be, which can be vital context when a person calling 911 is in a tall building.

All three carriers had sought to waive this year’s April deadline, however, citing technical struggles during the pandemic and obstacles involving third parties like handset manufacturers and operating system developers. The wireless industry has also argued that 911 call centers aren’t yet fully equipped with technology to receive such data.

These arguments didn’t seem to persuade acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, who in April complained of “little progress” over the last few years and launched an inquiry.

The settlements announced Thursdayresolve those probes and deliver what the agency calls “life-saving commitments” from the carriers to now make available such vital consumer information within the next few days.

What the settlements require: The carriers now have to begin providing the best available customer location information, including how high up a caller might be, to 911 call centers nationwide within seven days of the settlements’ Thursday release. The companies also have to designate a compliance officer within the next 30 days and develop and implement a compliance plan.

The date by which carriers must “fully comply” with all 2015 location data requirements is now April 3, 2022, a year after the original deadline, according to the settlements. Carriers must certify such compliance with the FCC by June 2, 2022.

What Rosenworcel is saying now: “These settlements accomplish what has evaded the agency for too long: They ensure that the FCC, public safety and wireless carriers work together to immediately start delivering this information to first responders without further delay,” the acting chair said. “They also ensure that we are improving our 911 location accuracy capabilities everywhere in the country and not just in the top 25 markets. “

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