[telecom] FCC may kill 911 access for unregistered mobile phones

h/t to Lauren of Privacy Digest for the pointer

---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Thu, 14 May 2015 07:31:34 -0700 From: PRIVACY Forum mailing list

FCC may kill 911 access for mobile phones without accounts

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It's generally known that if you call 911 from a cell phone in the USA, you will be connected to the nearest Public Safety Access Point, whether or not the phone has an active account. This is the basis for programs that distribute donated phones for emergency-only use. However, the FCC has proposed a rule change that would eliminate the requirement for telephone companies to connect 911 calls made by NSI (non-service-initialized) phones. The main reason for the proposed rule change are the problems caused by fraudulent 911 calls made through NSI phones. Yet respondents cited by the FCC show that as may as 30% of 911 calls from NSI phones are for legitimate emergencies. The comment period for the proposed rule change ends on June 6th, 2015.

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FCC: No account? Just DIE!

--Lauren-- Lauren Weinstein ( snipped-for-privacy@vortex.com):

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Reply to
danny burstein
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The citation said, "Public safety representatives have indicated that NSI devices are frequently used to make fraudulent or otherwise non-emergency calls, causing a significant waste of limited public safety resources."

Tt seems from their complaint that the public safety folks are more concerned by "non-emergency" calls as opposed to "fraudulent" calls. It seems "fraudulent" calls represent a very small percentage of calls.

In my humble opinion, over the years, 911 managers have been far too strict on dealing with citizen requests that they see as "non emergency".

For example: a young man, on foot was lost out in the country. He called 911 to get _directions_ (not a ride) to a bus or nearby town. But they sent a police car out and arrested him for abuse of 911. (There was a public outcry over that).

In addition, 911 managers don't like getting calls for low-priority police needs, such as noisy neighbors, broken traffic signals, cars blocking driveways, illegal or suspicious solicitors, etc. The problem is that there is no alternative number for citizens to call for low-priority police assistance, and only the police can deal with such issues. A few cities have established 24/7 "311" service for things like broken traffic lights, but many places have no such service.

In my own experience, a child showed up at my front door during bad weather, lost. Being it was a confused youth and I was ill, I felt the police should be involved. 911 did not appreciate my calling them, and was quite nasty about it.

IMHO, this request should be denied, and unregistered cell phones should still be allowed to contact 911. Note that for years people freely used pay phones to call 911 anonymously. (Maybe they want to discourage anonymous calls to


Anyone else have any thoughts?

[public replies, please]
Reply to

I think what you mean is "no national standard number similar to 911, but for low-priority police assistance".

Here in town, the police dispatch phone number--which is what everyone used to call prior to 911--hasn't changed in, quite literally, decades and decades. And they happily take low priority calls.

I've never called 911, but I call the cops on a regular basis--for debris on the freeway, or broken signal lights, or whatever.

***** Moderator's Note *****

I thought "311" was being implemented for that.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Elmo P. Shagnasty

No, I meant that there is no alternative number. A _few_ places have established 311, but most places do not have it.

In my town, to contact the police, you either call 911 or their office number. The office is staffed only during regular business hours, not nights or weekends. In any event, the business office can't handle things like broken traffic lights, which our 911 center doesn't want to bothered with, even though a police response is needed*.

Philadelphia attempted to use its old number for non emergency calls, but it never took root, and was discontinued. Indeed, lots of people never knew the old number, despite publicity; people simply dialed "Operator", and asked for police or fire.

In many small towns, dispatching has been centralized and taken over by a larger entity, such as a county-wide unit.

(A disadvantage is that the county dispatchers are unfamiliar with local geography. "Hello, I'm in Smithtown and there's a brush fire at the cemetary!" The county dispatcher will require an address, whereas the old dispatcher knew there was only one cemetary in Smithtown and exactly where it was. This is an actual example, by the way.)

While a number of cities have 311, many do not, and it isn't widespread in suburban areas. One challenge with that is that it becomes a central site for all kinds of municipal complaints far beyond police matters, such as broken swings at the playground or low water pressure. Initial reports have stated some centers are inadequately staffed, overwhelmed with calls, and city agencies slow to respond.

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If a street illumination light is burned out, it can wait several days to be repaired without being a safety hazard; that isn't a police matter. But if a traffic signal is out, accidents can occur at the intersection. Cops can't necessarily fix a broken traffic signal, but they can, and very often do, put up temporary stop signs so there is some safety. If the intersection is very busy, cops may direct traffic. Anyway, there needs to be a 24/7 reporting method for situations like broken traffic lights, even if 911 centers do not consider that a "true emergency".

Reply to


Isn't the main issue that no matter what alternative number or technology are put in place, there are always a percentage of population so stupid that they will *always* misuse things like 911?

Reply to
David Clayton

311 around here just gets plain old non-police city services aids who take calls for the mayor's office.
Reply to
Elmo P. Shagnasty

I dispute that, because around here there IS an alternative number specifically straight to the police dispatchers.

So, I go back to my original stand: certainly you must mean no alternative number that's standardized similar to 911, that everyone would know. For example, tourists in my city wouldn't know whom to call for non-emergency police matters. I get that. But they do have a number they could call, if they knew it.

Reply to
Elmo P. Shagnasty

And around here there is, so your stand that "there isn't a number" simply isn't true.

And I can't believe my area is the only area with a number that goes straight to police dispatch for these kinds of things.

Reply to
Elmo P. Shagnasty

In my area, the non-emergency number goes into the same queue as

911, but presumably with a lower priority.
Reply to

Duncan wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@webmail.messagingengine.com:

I called the Anne Arundel County MD non emergency police number (a standard local number)a few years ago. I had received several telephone scam calls and I wanted then to know in case they were investigating. This was definitely not the 911 operator. I explained for a few minutes and she asked if I wished to speak to an officer. Well no. I wasn't asking for immediate action. I suspect everything I said went into the bit bucket.

I believe Anne Arundel County will only act upon 911 calls. These calls get logged. I have seen public notices from the police to call 911 if you want a police response EVEN IF IT'S NOT AN EMERGENCY! AA County is mostly suburban so I gather they use 911 differently than the more urban areas.

Reply to
Rick Goddard

In my city there's one 8-hour/5-day number for Street Lights Maintenance, another one for Traffic Light Maintenance, and yet another for potholes.

"24/7"? You must be dreaming -- not even car-towing info is available here

24/7, only in standard city bureaucrat banker's hours (but 7 days a week).

Cheers (and count your blessings :-) ), -- tlvp

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