July 18, 2003 12:26 PM PDT

T-Mobile to pay up for E911 delay

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T-Mobile USA will pay a $1.1 million "voluntary contribution" to federal regulators for missing deadlines to make it possible for emergency call center operators to locate cell phones dialing 911.

The carrier, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, also has agreed to a new, 22-month deadline to meet the Federal Communications Commission's so-called E911 rules, according to the FCC.

All U.S. cell phone carriers have missed deadlines for a federally mandated schedule to make it possible for police to know the location of cell phones that call 911, something they can't do now. The FCC has asked AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless to make similar "contributions" to the agency's coffers.

Traditional landline phone providers complied to the E911 mandate several years ago. Emergency call centers credit their ability to locate a landline phone with saving the lives of those unaware of where they are or too injured or panicked to provide details. With more than half of all 911 calls now coming from cell phones, emergency call centers say they need the E911 service more than ever.

T-Mobile representatives did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment.

The company has 22 months to begin clearing the backlog of requests for E911 service from emergency call centers. If not, it could be on the hook for more "voluntary" contributions, the FCC wrote in its order released Thursday.

T-Mobile switched to new E911 technology in March. According to the FCC report, the carrier is still determining if the technology is accurate enough to meet the agency's mandate. T-Mobile told the FCC it expects the technology will pass muster.


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