The FCC passed a rule in 1998 that would require all wireless carriers to enable location tracking for 9-1-1 purposes. That landmark decision kick-started a decades-long domino effect in which location-tracking abilities inside devices rapidly improved, relying first on the location of cellular towers and, eventually, on GPS.
And yet, while the app economy has profited handsomely from these developments, they’ve gone woefully underutilized in emergency scenarios, particularly as it pertains to wireless emergency alerts, those push notifications that tell you when a flood or wildfire is heading your way. That’s partly because wireless carriers and smartphone manufacturers have lobbied extensively against new forms of regulation.
Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the commission would move forward with an Obama-era order calling for wireless carriers to pinpoint emergency alerts down to the cellular tower level. Until recently, these alerts have targeted entire counties, an area so vast that, typically, people either receive alerts that are irrelevant to them, or emergency managers forgo alerts altogether—with potentially disastrous consequences. The alerts will also include embeddable links that can redirect people to additional information.
For public safety and communications experts, including Wheeler, these upgrades represent a crucial step in a multiyear battle with the cell phone industry.
Read the rest of the story at Wired.
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