In 1990, Massachusetts enacted legislation to provide statewide Enhanced 9-1-1 telephone service in Massachusetts. It established the Statewide Emergency Telecommunications Board ("SETB") to manage the implementation of wire-line Enhanced 9-1-1 for the Commonwealth.
In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order requiring implementation of Enhanced 9-1-1 for wireless phone carriers. The FCC order ensures that any person who needs emergency assistance will be able to contact a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) whether they subscribe to a wireless service or not. An estimated fifty percent (50%) of 9-1-1 calls are now made from wireless phones nationwide, and Massachusetts and other states recognize the significance of implementing this order. Wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 in Massachusetts was created under Chapter 61 of the Acts of 2002, with funding coming from a monthly surcharge on each Massachusetts wireless phone user's account.
The FCC order consists of two phases. "Phase 1" requires all wireless carriers to provide a PSAP with the telephone number of the person calling and the location of the closest cell site or base station transmitting the call -- this phase was accomplished in Massachusetts in April 2003. "Phase 2" requires wireless carriers to provide more precise location information to the PSAP, including the latitude and longitude of the caller. This information must be accurate within 50-300 meters under the FCC standards. This phase is now being implemented in Massachusetts, with full compliance statewide required by the end of 2005.
As the number of wireless subscribers continues to increase, the ability to reach help in an emergency situation is critical. The wireless Enhanced 9-1-1 infrastructure is essential to promoting safety and security within the Commonwealth.