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New FCC regulations to improve wireless 911 call routing, emergency response time

Cellphone carriers are now required to send first responders based on the location of the caller, rather than the nearest cell tower


A dispatcher’s digital switchboard linking with other jurisdictions’ emergency contacts at Harford County government’s dispatch emergency call center in Forest Hill, Md. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

Karl Merton Ferron/TNS

By Sarah Roebuck
Editorial Staff

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to help enhance routing wireless 911 calls and Real-Time Texts (RTT) to 911 call centers, the FCC said in a news release.

Historically, wireless 911 calls are routed based on the nearest cell tower, often leading to misdirected calls near county or city borders. This may lead to calls being sent to a call center outside the caller’s actual location, requiring rerouting and potentially wasting time and resources in emergencies.

On Jan. 25, 2024, the FCC mandated that all wireless carriers nationwide adopt location-based routing for 911 calls and RTTs. This method routes calls based on the caller’s location, not the cell tower’s location.

The FCC said the use of accurate location data for directing 911 calls is expected to enable millions more wireless 911 callers to connect directly with emergency responders, reducing the need for transfers or delays.