Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 5: Public Safety
Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 5: Public Safety
Five Fundamentals for the Phone Network, Part 5: Public Safety

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    This is the final post in our series explaining Public
    Knowledge’s five fundamental principles for the transition of our phone network to IP-based technology. We’ve already
    discussed service to all Americans,
    interconnection and competition,
    consumer protection,
    and network reliability.
    Today we’ll dive into the last (but not least) of the five principles: public

    At this point most U.S. residents take for granted that they
    will be able to rely on the 9-1-1 system to call for help during an emergency. The
    public interest benefits of 9-1-1 service are fairly obvious—this is, after
    all, one part of the phone system that involves literally life-or-death
    situations. Regardless of the progress of the phone network upgrade or future market
    trends, one thing is clear: a person’s ability to call for emergency aid when
    they need it most cannot depend on whether the network that person uses is
    wireless or wireline, copper or fiber, or utilizing TDM or IP technology.

    During the transition, the main goal for public safety
    should be to make sure that the network continues to help emergency
    communications reach their intended destinations quickly, and to seek out ways
    that the newer IP-based technology can enhance 9-1-1 or other emergency

    This means that, for example, we must ensure that alarm
    systems and alarm system standards that rely on access to a traditional
    “telephone line” to function won’t be needlessly disrupted when the lines begin using
    newer IP technology. And in addition to maintaining the continued functions
    made possible by the traditional network technology, we must seek out
    opportunities for IP-based technology to help more users reach emergency
    responders more easily, quickly, and efficiently.

    On the federal level, the Commission has already begun
    looking to the future of our public safety protections with the Next Generation
    9-1-1 transition. It’s important, though, to consider public safety in the broader
    context of the network upgrade.

    When we consider new capabilities made possible by IP
    technology, we must think through what impact those functions will have on the
    other fundamental principles underlying the network. For example, geolocation
    technology that helps emergency response to 9-1-1 calls made from mobile phones necessarily impacts consumer privacy. As we move forward with the
    transition, it’s crucial that we take time to think through these issues and
    make any necessary trade-offs between values thoughtfully and deliberately.

    It’s exactly this tendency for particular issues to impact
    multiple fundamental values underlying the phone network that makes it crucial
    for us to create a solid, principled framework to guide us through the transition
    of the phone network. As each new issue, challenge, or opportunity arises, we
    can then use our framework to evaluate all of the potential benefits and

    At the end of the day, the values we hold to most firmly
    will be the ones that guide and inform the decisions we ultimately make. The
    transition of the phone network promises to be extraordinarily important and
    amazingly complex. If local, state, and federal regulators hope to guide this
    transition in a way that will create the best possible results for users, they
    must establish a framework of fundamental principles that will help them
    navigate the waters as we move deeper into the transition.

    Public Knowledge will continue following this issue and
    advocating for consumers based on the Five Fundamentals we’ve outlined in this
    blog post series. The phone network’s technology may be changing, but our
    social needs and goals remain the same.

    Click here to sign the petition supporting a universally
    affordable, reliable, and available phone system regardless of the underlying