Statement of FCC Chairman Wheeler: On July 28, Chairman Wheeler spoke at the hearing on “Continued Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission” to discuss progress on a number of key initiatives. On page 7 of the testimony, Chairman Wheeler noted “concern with the lack of coordination among 911 call centers, an issue I raised last time I was before this panel.”
He said, “There are well over 6,000 public safety answering points (PSAPs) in the United States. They do yeoman’s work to protect Americans and should be applauded. But the fact remains that absent Federal guidance they remain independent and autonomous without any need to either keep up with technology or coordinate on a state-wide basis.
“Over 450 times a minute, Americans dial 911. The vast majority of those calls are placed from mobile phones. The problem is that the physics of mobile signals don’t obey the boundaries of the PSAPs. A woman in Georgia trapped in her car drowned while on the phone with the 911 operator just because the call was picked up by the nearest cell tower and routed to a PSAP in a neighboring jurisdiction. We cannot allow that to happen.
“In the 1999 law that established 911 as the national emergency number, Congress asked PSAPs to work together on a state-wide basis to coordinate activities. To the best of our information, not one single state has accepted that invitation. Almost 20 years have passed since the 911 Act was passed, during which time wireless has become the predominant vehicle for calling 911. We at the Commission have taken this as far as the authority granted us. Only the Congress can take the next steps to save lives. As we approach hurricane season, I hope Congress will treat this issue with the urgency that it deserves.”