Petition Urges Telecom Companies to Improve Location Technology That FCC Says Could Save Lives


Ms. Magazine launched a petition and social action campaign on Thursday urging the country’s top telecom companies to improve their location technology for 9-1-1 calls.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), improvements in the ability of emergency response agencies to accurately locate at-risk cell phone callers could “save approximately 10,120 lives annually.”

In July a woman in San Bernardino, California, called 9-1-1 on her cell phone for help. Identifying as Michelle Miers, she said she had been shot but did not give her address. It took the San Bernardino Police Department at least 20 minutes to determine her location, using “the longitude and latitude of the call,” according to news reports. The 26-year-old mother of two died as the result of the injuries she received during the attack, and advocates believe that if local law enforcement had the ability to determine her exact location, her death—and the deaths of other individuals in life-threatening situations—could have been prevented.

Other incidents in which a cell phone caller could not be located by 9-1-1 dispatchers in time have happened around the country.

“The largest category of 911 calls comes from women in domestic violence situations,” Katherine Spillar, executive editor of Ms. Magazine, wrote in an open letter to the heads of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. “It’s outrageous, frankly, that some of them have to die because operators are struggling to figure out where the call has come from.”

While emergency responders and fire and police chiefs have announced their support of the proposed FCC regulations, the four largest wireless service providers in the United States—Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile—have objected their implementation.

These companies say that current technology cannot meet the proposed standards; however, an independent test found technologies are available today to meet the FCC’s proposed standards. Ms. Magazine says that the phone companies need to embrace these new standards instead of complaining about the time and money it might cost them.

“How many more women have to die before America’s cell-phone service providers stop dragging their feet?” the petition letter says. “I urge you to end the delay tactics and support the FCC’s proposed regulations today—and save thousands of lives.”

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

Follow Teddy Wilson on twitter: @txindyjourno