TR Daily Pai Urges Stakeholders to Work Toward Nov. 30 WEA Deadline
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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Pai Urges Stakeholders to Work Toward Nov. 30 WEA Deadline

BALTIMORE—FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today reemphasized his call for stakeholders to work toward ensuring that there is compliance with the Commission’s Nov. 30 deadline for delivering wireless emergency alerts (WEAs) to more precise geographic areas.

During remarks at the APCO 2019 show here this morning, Mr. Pai noted that the FCC last year “required providers who participate in Wireless Emergency Alerts to deliver alerts to the area specified by the emergency managers, with an overshoot of no more than one-tenth of a mile, by November 30, 2019” [TR Daily, Jan. 30, 2018].

“I’m encouraged to hear that a chip manufacturer has stepped up to the plate and produced an initial software release to support geo-targeting months in advance of their earlier projections,” Mr. Pai added. “And I’m encouraged to hear that major wireless providers have developed test cases for enhanced geo-targeting and have already opened their labs for device testing.

“But there is more work to be done,” he added. “And so I am re-emphasizing my call to all stakeholders to continue working cooperatively and expeditiously to meet the November 30 deadline. We want wireless emergency alerts to empower emergency managers and protect the public when communities are in danger.”

In June, Lisa Fowlkes, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, wrote the five largest wireless carriers to secure their commitments that they plan to comply with the WEA deadline (TR Daily, June 5).

In response to the letter, carriers cited various technical and supply issues they were facing in meeting the Nov. 30 deadline, including handset availability and testing and network upgrades, and said they were hoping to meet it but could not definitely commit that they could.

CTIA said it had no comment on the Chairman’s WEA remarks.

An AT&T, Inc., spokesperson said that “AT&T has been committed to the success of the Wireless Emergency Alerts system since it was first deployed, and we are working diligently to integrate the WEA advanced geotargeting solutions in our network as quickly and reliably as possible.”

T-Mobile US, Inc., referred TR Daily to the comments it filed with the FCC, especially the following sentence, “T-Mobile is committed to ensuring its compliance with the FCC’s regulations governing the service, including the WEA geo-targeting requirement, and that its customers have an optimal experience with this important public safety service.”

Grant Spellmeyer, vice president-federal affairs and public policy for United States Cellular Corp., said that “per our prior letter to the FCC we are continuing to work towards a successful implementation by the deadline.”

Verizon Communications, Inc., and Sprint Corp. had no comment.

During his remarks today, Mr. Pai also noted that the Commission earlier this month adopted a report and order to help people directly call 911 from multi-line telephone systems (MLTSs) without first having to dial an access number such as “9.” The item also addresses the delivery of dispatchable location data with 911 calls (TR Daily, Aug. 1).

“Going forward, I am optimistic that first responders will get a 911 caller’s location more quickly and precisely, whether the call comes from a multi-line telephone system, fixed telephone service, VoIP provider, Telecommunications Relay Service, or mobile texting service,” Mr. Pai said.

He also expressed support for “a common-sense proposal to make sure you get the recognition you deserve. Under current federal guidelines, 911 operators and dispatchers are classified as ‘Office and Administrative Support’—not as first responders. No disrespect to administrative support staff, but that doesn’t make sense. At any given moment, a 911 operator can instantly find herself in the middle of a life-and-death situation, where her ability to stay calm and quickly make the right decision could determine if disaster is averted. It’s hard to think of a more stressful and challenging position.”

He thanked “Congresswoman Norma Torres — the only former 911 dispatcher serving in Congress — and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick for pioneering a bipartisan solution to reclassify public safety telecommunicators as first responders. I’m pleased that their proposal was attached to the House version of this year’s defense authorization bill [TR Daily, July 12]. And I hope that one way or another, the 911 SAVES Act becomes law,” the Chairman added.

Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Derek Poarch said of Mr. Pai’s remarks, “We thank Chairman Pai for his remarks at our annual conference, and his continued focus on recognizing the lifesaving work of 9-1-1 professionals and advancing public safety communications priorities. The Chairman has been particularly supportive of public safety requirements when it comes to improvements to Wireless Emergency Alerts. He has been steadfast in ensuring that wireless providers meet the geotargeting deadline, which is essential to effective emergency management.” —Paul Kirby, [email protected]

MainStory: FCC FederalNews PublicSafety

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