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Author Topic: FCC Press Release Dec. 21, 2010  (Read 5111 times)

Posts: 1045


« on: December 22, 2010, 06:13:02 AM »



December 21, 2010
Robert Kenny: 202-418-2668 <>


Rapid Sharing of Videos, Photos and Data to Improve Emergency Response

Washington, D.C. -- The Federal Communications Commission today took an
important step to revolutionize America's 9-1-1 services for consumers
and first responders by adopting a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking
public comment on how Next Generation 911 (NG911) can enable the public
to obtain emergency assistance by means of advanced communications
technologies beyond traditional voice-centric devices.

The FCC has undertaken this proceeding in response to a recommendation
in the National Broadband Plan seeking to harness the life-saving
potential of text messaging, email, video and photos from mobile and
landline broadband services. Despite the fact that there are more than
270 million wireless consumers nationwide and that approximately 70
percent of all 9-1-1 calls are made from mobile hand-held devices,
today's 9-1-1 systems support voice-centric communications only and are
not designed to transfer and receive text messaging, videos or photos.
In some emergency situations -- especially in circumstances where a call
could further jeopardize someone's life and safety -- texting may be the
only way to reach out for help. In addition, many Americans,
particularly those with disabilities, rely on text messaging as their
primary means of communication.

The sharing of timely and relevant videos and photos would provide first
responders with on-the-ground information to help assess and address
emergencies in real-time. For example, these technologies could help
report crimes as they are happening thus giving law enforcement
officials an increased advantage when responding.

The NOI asked a comprehensive set of questions that address a number of
issues related to the deployment of Next Generation 9-1-1 services,
including, but not limited to:

* The technical feasibility and limitations of text
messaging video streaming and photos;
* Consumer privacy issues, particularly related to the
sharing of personal electronic medical data;
* Development of technical and policy standards;
* Consumer education and awareness; and
* Inter-governmental coordination and coordination within
the public safety community.

Action by the Commission, December 21, 2010, by NOI (FCC 10-200).
Chairman Genachowski, and Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn and
Baker. Separate statements issued by Chairman Genachowski, and
Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn and Baker. PS Docket No. 10-255.

For additional information about the NOI, please contact Patrick
Donovan, Policy and Licensing Division, FCC's Public Safety and Homeland
Security Bureau, at 202-418-2413 or via email:


News and other information about the FCC is available at


21st CENTURY 9-1-1

In December, the FCC will take steps to revolutionize America's 9-1-1
system by harnessing the life-saving potential of text, photo, and video
in emergencies.


* The National Broadband Plan laid out a vision for
next-generation 9-1-1 that harnesses cutting-edge technologies to help
save lives. 9-1-1, which was established as the national emergency
number in 1968, has been a wildly successful lifeline to those in
distress. Americans place more than 237 million 9-1-1 calls every year
-- 650,000 per day.
* Seventy percent of 9-1-1 calls come from mobile phones.
But increasingly, consumers are using their mobile phones less to make
calls, and more for texting and sending pictures and videos. These new
technologies have the potential to revolutionize emergency response by
providing public safety officials with critical real-time, on-the-ground
* Today's 9-1-1 system is not equipped to take advantage
of new technologies. 9-1-1 call centers lack the technical capability to
receive texts, photos, videos, and other data. Many 9-1-1 call centers
don't have access to broadband, which makes it difficult to receive
incoming data, particularly in large volume. Finally, call center
operators have not been trained how to effectively communicate using
these new technologies.
* The technological limitations of 9-1-1 can have tragic,
real-world consequences. During the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting,
students and witnesses desperately tried to send texts to 9-1-1 that
local dispatchers never received. If these messages had gone through,
first responders may have arrived on the scene faster with firsthand
intelligence about the life-threatening situation that was unfolding.
* Bringing 9-1-1 into the 21st century is one of the FCC's
key public safety priorities. In December, the FCC will launch a
proceeding, as recommended in the National Broadband Plan, to determine
how to transition the current system to broadband-enabled,
next-generation 9-1-1. This action will build on the FCC's recent order
to improve 9-1-1 by beefing up location-accuracy requirements so that
first responders can quickly find people who reach out for help on their
mobile phones.

Benefits of Next-Generation 9-1-1

* Text for Help: Many Americans, particularly those with
disabilities, rely on texting as their primary means of communication.
In some emergency situations -- especially in circumstances where a call
could further jeopardize someone's life and safety -- texting is the
only way to reach out for help. Next-generation 9-1-1 will allow call
centers to receive texts and put them to use.

* Real-Time Rapid Response: Mobile video and photos
provide first responders with on-the-ground information that helps them
assess and address the emergency in real-time. These technologies also
help report crime as it is happening. Next-generation 9-1-1 would expand
the multi-media capabilities of 9-1-1 call centers.
* Automatic Alerting: Next-generation 9-1-1 would enable
emergency calls to be placed by devices, rather than human beings.
Examples of such devices include environmental sensors capable of
detecting chemicals, highway cameras, security cameras, alarms, personal
medical devices, telematics, and consumer electronics in automobiles.


Posts: 36


« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2010, 11:16:28 AM »

Although the post has nothing to do with Amateur Radio, what may at first seem rational can easily turn into an unmanageable monster. "OMG like help!"  "what is your location?" "My room duh?" 

In most areas, people who bypass their wire-line telephone (the one with all the address information for us poor 911 folks!) and grab their cell phone are already building in a delay for service. First problem- people see an unrealistic portrayal of cellular emergency calls on TV. In most areas of the country we 911 dispatchers do NOT know where you are, who you are, or where you're going. We are not watching you on a video map. Second problem- an embarrassing number of people have no idea where they are actually located. If we are not able to successfully ask you questions, we may not be able to send help efficiently. Third problem- somebody sends an unexplained picture of a motor vehicle accident. What are we supposed to do with that? 

These are not unrealistic. It is already happening: "What's the location of your emergency?" Derisively, "My living room!"  As adjunct sources of information these might all be great. Opening these modes up as primary sources of reporting an emergency creates even more chaos and delayed assistance, rather than enhanced response.  The emergency calling czars need to proceed with extreme caution here.

Posts: 226


« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2010, 03:04:26 PM »

Like that would be so kewl! If I was, Like, scared and texted you and you like sent me a fav ringtone to like calm me down we could like be BFFL! Grin and, oh no, battery is like gone! Shocked too many video games. I'll call back like after I swap battery at the mall. Cheesy

Posts: 490

« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2011, 11:33:47 AM »

The reality of the situation, however, is that more and more people are terminating their land-line service in favor of their cellphone. The logic is "why have (and pay for) a land line when I have a cell phone? Relying on landline/hardwired phones for location information is becoming less and less practical. Accomodating the features of cellphones is just dealing with where technology is going (for better or worse).

RE: location information, more and more cell phones are equipped with GPS sets that (in my limited experience) are quite accurate. With a good GPS fix, the phone can not only tell what address you're at, but whether your in the front room or the back room of the house (it could probably tell what floor your on, as well). If you made it so that dialing 911 sent the GPS location to the central office, you'd have better location information (in real time) than you'd get just by knowing the address. Same thing with texts and photos. Just add the GPS-located coordinates (heck, send the fix precision as well) and you have a very effective accident/incident reporting system that sends time and location stamped images or videos with the reporting person's phone number.

Even without GPS location, the cell system can approximate the location (to varying degrees of accuracy) so it's just a matter of using the technology that exists.

As far as prank calls/texts/photos, that would be cured pretty quick by sending prank callers a ticket in the mail since the prank text would have the prankster's contact information attached automatically. Even kids would know better than to be that stupid.

Posts: 36


« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2011, 03:18:44 PM »

Robert, I am part of that 'reality' you mention- after our youngest got her cell phone, I gave myself a $50 a month raise by dumping the wireline service. No more political ads!  The trouble is not with the cell phones. The problem is that currently a large portion of the US does not have "Phase 2" information accompanying the cellular call. Large metropolitan areas are catching up but not all are there yet. Outside the larger cities, the call only offers the location of the cell tower, if that.  It's easy to say something like, "If they had been able to receive text messages, they would have been able to act faster," but the technology is not ubiquitous. It doesn't matter that the cellphone knows where it is. I have no doubt it would be nice, should be nice, and could be nice. My point is that it's NOT nice now- because it's not there yet.

The reality is that well-intentioned 'cell phone warriors' can really mess things up by providing inaccurate locations and improper information. It's normal for one accident on the Interstate to generate two, three or more reported locations that are miles apart - which results in multiple assignments being dispatched to make sure they're covered. GPS locating the phone only works when the phone is at the incident location.  We dispatchers still need to be able to ask questions, confirm the actual location, and be in a position to provide pre and post dispatch assistance while units are still responding. I live by email and texting - and I have no doubt that a productive exchange could take place under certain specific circumstances. I just don't think the hype presents an accurate or workable situation.

Posts: 490

« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2011, 07:46:59 AM »

That's a good point about the moving cellphone scenario.

I can see some interesting problems arising from the text & image servicing. When everything works like the marketing glossies, it could be very helpful. Text messages can be sent quickly and pre-processed with some degree of automation. Images could be helpful in assigning resources (e.g. as a way to evaluate the response).

OTOH, in a worst-case scenario, all the new information could choke things up with too much information that's not equally useful. E.g. when one person's dire crisis is another's minor annoyance.

The press release, however, sounds a little too much like marketing glossy. To wit (emphasis mine): "In December, the FCC will take steps to revolutionize America's 9-1-1 system by harnessing the life-saving potential of text, photo, and video in emergencies."

From what I've seen, these types of applications tend to do better through evolution than they do through revolution.

Either way, you tax dollars at work.

Posts: 297

« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2011, 09:17:29 PM »

it's not a good idea.. but it's not a bad idea either.. From what I've seen about the reliability of text messages actually making it to their destination.. I wouldn't want to rely on them.  I've received a text message nearly a month after it was sent before..

however.. if you were in, say, a hostage situation where you could fire off discrete text messages but not make a phone call.. I know it sounds dumb, but check out the movie "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" for a great example.  it wouldn't be a terrible thing.  or say someone has broken into your house and you are hiding in a closet.. or something along those lines.

having cell phones that can provide GPS locations as part of the caller id when calling 9-1-1 wouldn't be a bad thing either.
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