The state of Rhode Island earlier this week announced that it would roll out technology allowing it to identify the location of certain wireless 911 calls within the state.
Currently the program will work only with particular phones from Sprint PCS, but the state expects other carriers to test in and eventually join the system as part of a federally mandated effort to deploy such tracking technology nationwide.
"The State of Rhode Island was selected by many of the wireless carriers to test and implement [the program] because the state is flexible and has the equipment that allows us the ability to implement different configurations based upon each wireless carriers preference," said Raymond LaBelle, executive director of Rhode Islands E 9-1-1 office, in a written statement.
The technology employed by the Rhode Island call center was manufactured by AK Associates of New Hampshire, with technology from Sprint, microData and CML. Under the system, the Rhode Island E 9-1-1 system will be able to receive X/Y coordinates from the wireless carrier and display the coordinates on a map displayed in the states call center.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on Rhode Islands e911 rollout, only two other 911 call centers in the nation, in St. Clair County, Ill., and Lake County, Ind., have similar capabilities.
Under mandates from the Federal Communications Commission, wireless carriers were supposed to meet an Oct. 1 deadline showing they were progressing toward such services. But the FCC has backpedaled on such milestones.
Recently FCC Commissioner Michael Copps criticized the delays: "I fear that because of this decision, consumers will not have E911 services as quickly as they deserve. And in the coming months and years, we will see more waiver requests, more finger-pointing and unacceptably slow progress," he said in a written partial dissent from one such decision.
The call for such emergency capabilities has grown particularly acute in light of the Sept. 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, where wireless phones proved useful in mitigating aspects of the disasters.
The final FCC deadline for the e911 rollout is Dec. 31, 2005.