Government seeks $2.2 million fine over E-911

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The government wants to fine AT&T Wireless Services Inc. $2.2 million for allegedly failing to include technology on new cell phones that allows emergency services to pinpoint the location of a distressed caller.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 4-0 to propose the fine, which was announced Monday.

AT&T Wireless spokesman Mark Siegel said the company "strongly disagrees with the commission's conclusion" and will fight the fine. The company has 30 days to give the FCC a response argument.

The FCC's Enhanced 911 initiative continues to roll out, to be completed over the next several years. The system requires carriers to make sure emergency personnel can determine the location -- to within 300 yards -- of 911 calls from cell phones, using either global positioning or networking.

AT&T Wireless had asked for a waiver of an October 2001 deadline, saying it would start providing new-phone buyers with handsets that include location capabilities but needed more time to meet the government's accuracy requirements. The waiver, which was granted by the FCC, applied to customers using a new AT&T network.

The FCC, in proposing the fine, alleged AT&T sold handsets for the network that were not location-capable and did not make the improvements to the network necessary to provide E-911 service. The agency also alleged the company failed to later inform the government its waiver request included outdated information.

Siegel said equipment suppliers failed to deliver handsets with the right technology.

"Implementing E-911 service is very important to us," he said. "The real issue is the device manufacturers, some of them, not being ready."

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