FCC Wants to Require GPS on All Phones for 911 by 2018

Posted by at 5:18 pm on October 4, 2011

The FCC put forward new rule Tuesday that required carriers to offer phones with built-in GPS. Its mandate will have cellular, landline, and VoIP providers have positioning to help find them in a 911 call no later than 2018. Carriers won’t have to limit themselves to GPS-aware phones after the cutoff, possibly softening worries that the government might track anyone with a phone.

The FCC argued that the policy is more to take advantage of existing trends than force a change in attitude. About 85 percent of cellphones, already the dominant form of calling in the US, are expected to have GPS by the 2018 target. VoIP is the largest exception and is being instituted as VoIP is moving away from its original role as an extension of or substitute for a landline, such as with Vonage and many cable providers, to a mobile option. Google Talk, Google Voice, Skype, and other platforms now make mobile the highest priority.

Officials will need to greenlight the new rule.

A call for GPS is part of a much larger 911 modernization drive at the FCC based on newer technology, especially from smartphones. With GPS, the US agency believes that lives could be saved by finding callers faster. Photos, texting, and video might also help by giving better visual references and, in potentially deadly criminal situations, warn the police without tipping off an attacker.

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