TR Daily CTIA’s NEAD Ceases Operations
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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

CTIA’s NEAD Ceases Operations

CTIA has informed the FCC that the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD), which it had established to comply with the FCC’s 2015 911 location-accuracy order (TR Daily, Jan. 29, 2015), “has ceased operation and is no longer available to support wireless providers’ provision of dispatchable location information” as had been hoped by the Commission and other stakeholders. Public safety groups, which had questioned the viability of the NEAD, expressed disappointment today that it had been shut down.

“Although the NEAD-based dispatchable location solution achieved the functional capabilities the Commission described in the 4th R&O, the Fifth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (5th FNPRM) recognized that the NEAD faced certain challenges,” CTIA noted in an ex parte filing Friday in PS docket 07-114 that was posted today.

“Dispatchable location and, more broadly, delivery of accurate vertical location information as part of wireless 9-1-1 calls are important objectives for the wireless industry,” CTIA added.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the FCC and other stakeholders to identify ways to deliver accurate vertical location information, including dispatchable location from sources other than the NEAD, which can help further enhance location accuracy for wireless 9-1-1 callers and the public safety community,” said CTIA, which submitted the filing as NEAD LLC, the subsidiary it established for the NEAD.

The filing also said, “Consistent with the Privacy and Security Plan for the National Emergency Address Database that was approved by the FCC on November 14, 2017, NEAD, LLC’s vendor has certified destruction of the database consistent with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Guidelines for Media Sanitization (NIST Special Publication 800-88 Revision 1 (2014)).”

In response to a request for additional comment on the NEAD today, Matt Gerst, vice president-regulatory affairs for CTIA, said, “Today’s device-based solutions have demonstrated the potential to deliver accurate and timely indoor location information for wireless 9-1-1 calls. Harnessing these emerging solutions for accurate vertical location information in buildings is the next frontier that we are eager to deliver for public safety.”

The NEAD was designed to help provide first responders dispatchable locations for 911 callers by leveraging Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth beacons.

“To make this effort a success, the NEAD seeks partnerships with reference point owners—cable companies, enterprises, public institutions, and any entity that owns or manages many wireless access points—to contribute this data to the NEAD and enhance our country's 9-1-1 system,” a website on the NEAD said.

But public safety and industry entities had expressed concerns with the NEAD, and the Commission has acknowledged its difficulties.

“We recognize the importance to public safety of obtaining dispatchable location information regarding which ‘door to kick in.’ However, the record indicates that the NEAD faces challenges that could slow down implementation of dispatchable location,” the FCC said in the fifth further notice adopted in November (TR Daily, Nov. 22, 2019). “Meanwhile, alternatives to the NEAD are emerging that could support dispatchable location. As APCO puts it, ‘dispatchable location can be provided without the NEAD’ and use of the NEAD to provide a caller’s location does not necessarily mean a ‘dispatchable location has been provided.’ The Texas 9-1-1 Entities point to location solutions such as Apple’s HELO, Google’s Android ELS, and West Public Safety’s proximity check.”

The item cited other filings by NENA, NCTA, and Comcast Corp. and Charter Communications, Inc., expressing concerns about the NEAD. For example, NENA questioned whether the NEAD would be able to keep up with commercially available services and said it could generate inaccurate results, NCTA noted that its members were reluctant to support the NEAD, and Comcast and Charter said they were worried that their customers’ privacy could be compromised, and they also cited technological alternatives to the NEAD.

At a NENA event last week, David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said that the results of testing using the NEAD were “less than stellar” and noted that the FCC is seeking views on whether there are alternative means of providing dispatchable location that don’t depend on the NEAD (TR Daily, Feb. 13).

The FCC declined to comment today on the closing of the NEAD, but public safety groups expressed disappointment.

“While supportive of the NEAD’s objectives, NENA was skeptical of the NEAD approach from the beginning and accordingly insisted on the inclusion of the myriad other guarantees in the 2014 Roadmap for Improving E911 Location Accuracy,” said Dan Henry, director-government relations for the public safety organization. “Despite our skepticism, we are disappointed that the NEAD approach has proven unsuccessful, and we thank those who strived to make the NEAD a success. Civic address—and indeed, the ‘door to knock on’—remain a crucial long-term goal for 9-1-1, but we cannot shortcut the path to accurate, sustainable, actionable location information. NENA is committed to ensuring public safety is provided with the best possible 9-1-1 location information, and will remain vigilant in overseeing industry progress toward this goal.”

“The wireless industry decision to abandon the NEAD without any announcements about alternative approaches to dispatchable location represents a broken promise to the American public,” said Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Derek Poarch. “Today’s announcement is disheartening, but APCO will continue advocating for emergency communications centers to receive the best location information possible.”

In a news release, APCO noted that “[t]he NEAD was intended to serve as a key source of dispatchable location information for 9-1-1 calls made indoors by providing a secure database to associate Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth Beacon reference points with validated civic addresses. In 2018, the NEAD underwent early-stage testing that demonstrated the fundamental ability of the NEAD to deliver dispatchable locations. However, while the performance of the NEAD depended in part on the cooperation of other entities such as businesses possessing information on Wi-Fi access points, the industry failed to secure the agreements needed.”

“This is not a surprise to the public safety community,” a veteran public safety official told TR Daily. “As many public safety groups commented in late 2014, the proposed NEAD was less than stellar and had many built in flaws, including not being functional during power outages, when calls to emergency services typically peak. We also raised concerns when the Test Bed results were made public and showed significant weaknesses. Had CTIA listened to public safety’s input when they were holding quarterly public safety advisory meetings (which they abandoned months ago), they could have saved significant time in meeting public safety’s needs for accurate location information. We hope they’ve learned from this and will now focus efforts on seeking meaningful and useful endeavors that will utilize the technologies which existed when they created the NEAD idea and will locate 911 callers and save lives.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews PublicSafety

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