August 3, 2020

Robocalls and Wireless Accuracy on FCC July Agenda

The FCC has scheduled its July Open Committee Meeting and the agenda is packed with several issues critical to public safety communications. However, there are two topics included on the agenda that should be of great interest to PSAPs: robocalls and wireless call accuracy.

CG Docket No. 17-59, Advanced Methods to Target and Eliminate Unlawful Robocalls, seeks to establish safe harbors to voice service providers in their implementation of Congress’s TRACED Act. The act, signed into law in December 2019, requires service providers to implement, at no extra charge, a number-authentication system to help consumers identify calling parties. The law also increases the penalties for violators of robocalls. With the Report and Order, the FCC seeks comments on establishing protections for legitimate callers as well as issues related to call blocking. Of interest to PSAPs, the Report & Order emphasizes that service providers should make all reasonable efforts to ensure that critical calls are still able to be delivered to 9-1-1 PSAPs. While PSAPs have experienced an impact to their operations at times due to robocalls, PSAPs prefer that providers still deliver all potential 9-1-1 calls to the PSAPs. PSAP administrators hope that the implementation of NG911 will also deliver tools to help identify potential ‘bad actor’ callers to allow administrators to decide whether or not actors’ calls would be delivered to the PSAP.

PS Docket No. 07-114, Wireless E911 Location Accuracy Requirements, is FCC’s Sixth Report and Order of Reconsideration seeks to improve indoor wireless location accuracy, specifically in dealing with multi-story buildings. In November 2019, the Commission adopted a vertical (z-axis) location accuracy metric of plus or minus 3 meters relative to the handset for 80 percent of indoor wireless E911 calls. The FCC will seek to affirm the timetable outlined as follows:

  • By April 3, 2021 service providers in the top 25% cellular market areas (CMAs) that elect the z-axis option for vertical wireless accuracy must meet the 3-meter accuracy standard
  • Beginning January 6, 2022 provide dispatchable location with wireless 9-1-1 calls when technically feasible
  • By April 3, 2023 service providers in the top 50% CMAs that elect the z-axis option for vertical wireless accuracy must meet the 3-meter accuracy standard
  • By April 3, 2025 nationwide carriers must deploy z-axis technology
  • By April 3, 2026 non-nationwide carriers must deploy z-axis technology

There is some concern among 9-1-1 industry standards organization that the new wireless location accuracy rules for z-axis technology will not do enough to aid 9-1-1 telecommunicators in identifying the emergency calls when a call is placed from a multi-story building. The wireless carriers will be required to deliver an estimated height in terms of a technical measurement of altitude called “height above ellipsoid” (HAE). A telecommunicator needs a floor number, not an estimated height. PSAP administrators are concerned that they will not have the resources available that will converted the HAE value to actionable information that can be used to dispatch field responders. The new accuracy rules may not provide the type of accuracy critical for a more concise dispatchable location where the horizontal location is not enough information.

Other topics on the Open Committee Meeting Agenda are:

  • WC Docket No. 18-336 to designate 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to provide rapid access to suicide prevention and mental health support services
  • WC Docket No. 18-89 the Commission will consider a Declaratory Ruling and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would integrate provisions of the recently enacted Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 into its existing supply chain rulemaking proceedings. The new law specifically bans the purchase of telecom equipment from Chinese manufacturers and provides provisions for the smaller telecom providers to replace existing equipment from Chinese manufacturers.
  • PS Docket No. 20-187 would modernize the Telecommunications Service Priority System to include voice, data and video services for public safety personnel and first responders, remove outdated rules and clarify the administrative responsibilities of the system
  • MB Docket Nos. 07-42 to adopt a tier-based leased access rate calculation that reflects the actual value of leased access channels and changes to cable rate regulation, while also reducing regulatory burdens on cable providers
  • WC Docket No. 19-195 the Commission will consider a Second Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would establish requirements to ensure that the Commission collects accurate and granular data on the availability of broadband service through the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, and would seek comment on additional measures to implement the requirements of the Broadband DATA Act.

Due to the pandemic, the Open Commission Meeting will be held on-line only on July 16, 2020 from 10:30am to 12:30pm EST. Interested parties can watch the live webcast from FCC’s website.

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