FCC Seeks Input on 911 Apps for Smartphones

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The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has issued a public notice seeking comment on a request by the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA) to initiate a proceeding to address issues related to how smartphone 911 applications (911 Apps) interface with 911 systems.  According to NASNA, there is legitimate concern that publicly available 911 Apps may create more harm than good.  For example, one 911 App “enables the end-user to over-ride location information generated by the device and send a different location to 911.”  Meanwhile, another 911 App vendor “published NASNA’s logo on its Website and promotional materials without permission, claiming NASNA has endorsed its product” while a third 911 App vendor claimed to have “briefed FCC and Department of Homeland Security staff” and subsequently placed both agencies’ logos on their promotional material while simultaneously touting that “cellular technology is unreliable” and that 911 Apps “get help to [the end-user] faster and more reliably than simply calling 911.”  Citing “the critical nature of 911 as the primary mechanism for the public to gain access to public safety services,” NASNA requests that the Commission initiate a proceeding to address 911 Apps and whether they can coexist with existing 911 systems.  Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on NASNA’s request and the appropriate role of the FCC when it comes to 911 Apps.  The Commission also encourages commenters to submit information regarding other types of public safety-related smartphone apps, including apps designed to reach PSAPs that bypass the 911 system, campus safety apps, and apps that are designed to be integrated into PSAP networks.  Comments are due Thursday, February 2, 2017 and reply comments are due Monday, March 6, 2017.

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