The FCC wants better location information for mobile 911 calls

When you call 911 on your cell phone, it includes location information that 911 centers can use to determine where you are even if you don’t know yourself. The problem is it isn’t always particularly accurate even outdoors and significantly less so indoors. In tests they’ve seen inaccuracy on the order of 200-750 feet, which in urban areas can easily encompass multiple buildings. Height information, which can tell responders which floor you’re on in a highrise, is only accurate 67% of the time. Yet the FCC wants carriers to report location accurate enough to pinpoint building and floor within five years.

A noble goal, but the technology isn’t there and won’t be for a long time. Location based on cell tower and WiFi hotspots isn’t sufficiently accurate and even GPS, which works well enough outdoors, is often unusable indoors. To reach the FCC’s goal, significant new technology and infrastructure must be built and all handsets updated to use it. Five years is just not enough time. But it will happen, lives depend on it.

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