Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 1999 - 10:30 PM
The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) --

Congress OKs Universal 911
Bill To Make 911 National Emergency Number Passes 424-2

The House on Tuesday sent legislation to the White House that would make 911 the national emergency number for both cellular and wireline phones.

The bill, passed 424-2, already has cleared the Senate and now goes to President Clinton for his signature.

The measure also directs the Federal Communications Commission to help states develop emergency communications systems, including technology that can automatically locate cellular users who have been in an accident or who automatically dial 911 after an accident. While 911 is the general emergency number for wireline phones, many states use different numbers for wireless phones. As a result travelers at times do not know what number to call after an accident, increasing response times for emergency medical care.

``Somebody may be facing a terrible life-threatening emergency but they are on their own because they don't know the number to call,'' said Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House Commerce telecommunications subcommittee.

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., author of the Senate bill, said in a statement that in rural states such as Montana it can be miles between telephones and ``it only makes sense to ensure that we can rely on cell phones during an emergency.''

Republican Reps. Helen Chenoweth of Idaho and Ron Paul of Texas voted against the legislation.

Overview of Senate 800 - Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999

Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and any agency or entity to which the FCC delegates such authority to designate 911 as the universal emergency telephone number within the United States for reporting an emergency to appropriate authorities and requesting assistance. Applies such designation to both wireline and wireless telephone service. Directs the FCC to provide appropriate transition periods for areas in which 911 is not currently an emergency number.

Requires the FCC to encourage and support efforts by States to deploy comprehensive end-to-end emergency communications infrastructure and programs based on coordinated statewide plans. Requires appropriate consultation with regard to such deployment. Provides immunity from liability, to the same extent as provided to local telephone exchange companies, for providers of wireless service. Provides immunity for users of wireless 911 service to the same extent as provided to users of 911 service that is not wireless. Provides immunity for public safety answering points (emergency dispatchers). Authorizes telecommunications carriers to provide call location information concerning a user of a commercial mobile service to:

(1) emergency dispatchers and emergency service personnel in order to respond to the user's call;
(2) the user's legal guardian or family member in an emergency situation that involves the risk of death or serious physical harm; or
(3) providers of information or data base management services solely for assisting in the delivery of emergency services.

Requires a customer's express prior authorization for disclosure to any other person. Requires telephone exchange service providers to provide both listed and unlisted subscriber information to providers of emergency and emergency support services.