While our cell phones have become the gateway to instant connectivity with family, friends and Facebook (News - Alert), of course, we sometimes lose sight of its most essential use – the ability to dial 911 while on the road. However, with dead zones still rampant in many parts of the country, it sure is unnerving to know that 911 could be out of reach at a time when we may need it the most.
Scarce cell phone service and losing access to wireless services is a situation most familiar to rural residents, whom live in back-country locations that lack an adequate wireless infrastructure. Or, there are many of us whose towns and even cities provide coverage in the majority of the area but yet we still find patches of lost service.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)), 7 out of 10 calls placed into 911 emergency responders are made from a cellular phone. This, of course, is problematic and unfortunately could be a matter of life and death in the event an emergency occurs in those dead zones.
This has sparked efforts by the FCC and the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) to collect data for the National Broadband Map plan, an E911 initiative that includes crucial information on broadband availability, speed capabilities, and fixed-mobile wireless services, as reported by DailyYonder.com. Unfortunately, the maps are still in their early stages and require an immense amount of research to truly determine where the lack of coverage is occurring.
“Many smaller, rural and regional carriers have provided information support to the FCC, but the maps are still incomplete and somewhat inaccurate, and there is no available statistic on how much of the country is covered with wireless service that we know of,” said Lucy Tutwiler, a spokeswoman for the Rural Cellular Association.
To make up for a lack of information, the FCC is urging citizens in these dead zones to fill out a “broadband dead zone report.” Meanwhile, every U.S. state, five territories and the District of Columbia will also contribute to their respective maps and continue to gather data, which will eventually be used to improve the existing public safety communications and network and hopefully bring the country closer to E911.
With E911 fully established, callers and 911 responders will be able to use text messages, images and videos for emergency processes, as well as have the capability to locate a caller’s exact location. 911 ETC, a proponent of E911 hosted solutions, is dedicated to addressing the country’s E911 needs and has been busy making people aware of regulatory issues at the state level.
For additional educational resources on E911 legislation, visit 911etc.com or refer to the many insights and educational blogs by Mark Fletcher, a major advocate of E911.
To submit information to the broadband dead zone report, click here.
Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca