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US lobby pushes hard for ‘location snooper’ phone technology

Three-legged stool

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The influential CTIA - Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association - is focusing its considerable influence on people who are dragging their feet on the so-called E-911 bill - which mandates that all 911 emergency calls should carry accurate details of where the caller is.

Last week, the CTIA issued a statement praising Senators Hillary Clinton (yes, that Hillary Clinton) and Conrad Burns - one democrat, one Republican - for their proposed bill.

In addition, the organisation has started focusing its news reports on the companies who are either obstructing, or failing to respond, to existing location-discovery laws.

The trouble is that since the first legislation empowered States to raise the money to pay for this technology, the money has been spent elsewhere.

"The Bonnie and Clyde of public safety are those governors and state legislatures who broke into the E-911 bank and robbed the public of important safety resources. We need leadership and coordination at the state level, to ensure that the fees wireless consumers are paying every month go where they were intended," said Tom Wheeler, President and CEO of the CTIA.

The weekend's CTIA newsletter highlights a hefty fine imposed on Cingular for failing to meet an FCC deadline for installing E-911 equipment in its network. The fine was picked up from SFGate.com - a web presence of the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Cingular Wireless plans to settle a recent FCC complaint for $675,000. The complaint was issued as a result of the wireless carrier’s failure to meet a FCC deadline requiring the installation of new technology in its network that would identify the location of a wireless caller dialling 911 from a Cingular phone. In addition to paying the fee, Cingular will install technology in several thousand cell sites throughout the United States over the next 21 months to meet E-911 specifications," said the report.

The E-911 legislation is the CTIA's baby; it dates back to 1996 when it joined with NENA and APCO in proposing the technology to the FCC.

Despite numerous delays caused by changing rules and regulations, the wireless industry has aggressively pushed forward to assure consumers receive the safety benefits of enhanced 9-1-1 services:

"E-911 is like a three-legged stool – the wireless industry, the 911 agencies (fire, police, ambulance) and the local phone companies. Unless all three legs are strong, the stool can’t carry its load," said Tom Wheeler, President and CEO of CTIA. "Frankly, the strongest leg on the stool right now is wireless." Or, to put it another way, the local authorities have been letting the load slip.

The new E-911 legislation proposed by Burns and Clinton is an attempt to nail the money to the table. "The bill would foster coordination at all levels, and through audits and other measures, ensure that E-911 funds are directed toward making enhanced 9-1-1 services available nationwide. This legislation injects a good dose of coordination and accountability that has been lacking in the implementation of enhanced 911 services," said CTIA's Wheeler.

"Senators Burns and Clinton have shown tremendous leadership and expertise in crafting a comprehensive policy that will promote cooperation, while at the same time clamp down on local and state governments who are brazenly raiding E-911 funds."

CTIA describes itself as an international association for the wireless telecommunications industry, but it remains to be seen if it has any clout outside the US. This flexing of muscles could be a preliminary to trying to get location-based emergency services adopted in other countries.

See http://www.wow-com.com for more.

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