On February 14, the wireless industry notified the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it has abandoned the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD). The NEAD was established to help 9-1-1 professionals and other emergency responders locate wireless 9-1-1 callers indoors by supporting the delivery of dispatchable location information (meaning the street address plus apartment, office number or other information needed to find a caller). Given that the industry has not announced testing of other methods for delivering dispatchable locations for 9-1-1 calls, this announcement represents a setback for 9-1-1 location accuracy.
Following months of negotiation in 2014, the industry made a formal commitment to the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) to develop, fund and implement the NEAD. The 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.
Separately, APCO has continued to press the wireless industry and FCC for improvements in 9-1-1 location accuracy, always with a focus on achieving dispatchable location using any technically feasible technologies. Recently, APCO filed a formal Petition for Clarification asking the FCC to clarify the location accuracy rules so that wireless carriers provide the 9-1-1 location information expected for the benefit of public safety.
“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,” APCO Executive Director and CEO Derek Poarch said. “Today’s announcement is disheartening, but APCO will continue advocating for emergency communications centers to receive the best location information possible.”
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