May 30, 2002

Wyden Speaks at News Conference Touting Wireless E-911 in Douglas County

"I've been involved in 911 issues for much of my time in the U.S. Senate. In 1999 I teamed up with Senator Burns to pass the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act. We established 911 as the universal emergency telephone number in the United States. Senator Burns and I also called for coordinated federal, state, and local efforts to implement wireless E-911."The events of September 11 only reinforced my conviction that this country's wireless users need E-911, and they need it now. On that day, cell phones were a crucial communications link when many land-line facilities were destroyed or went down."That was an extraordinary circumstance, but emergencies on a smaller scale happen every day. More than 30 percent of 911 calls are made from cell phones. Only in communities with the added capability of E-911 can operators pinpoint those callers' locations automatically, and send the right help to the right place - right away."Last week I was proud to be in my home state of Oregon as Douglas County brought Enhanced 911, or E-911, technology to the West for the first time. Thanks to Edge Wireless and Airbiquity, 911 operators in Douglas County area are be able to pinpoint the location of a person calling 911 from a mobile phone, from wherever they call."Last fall, a man in Delaware used his cell phone to call 911 when he drove his truck into a river. He died because operators couldn't pinpoint his location for rescue crews. I don't want that to happen in my state or anywhere else."The fact that Douglas County, Oregon is rolling out this technology in May of 2002 is important for several reasons. Just last October the nation's major wireless carriers missed their deadline to roll out the Phase II technology we're celebrating here today. Carriers asked the FCC for more time. Now some companies have until 2003, some until 2004 to start implementing Phase II."Douglas County's rollout proves that rural areas can lead the way in the E-911 effort. I am not surprised - but I bet a lot of other folks might be - to see Douglas County become the first in the West to implement this technology. If Edge Wireless and Airbiquity can do it there, other cell companies can absolutely follow suit. I believe Douglas County can be a model for the nation - particularly for rural areas - in making E-911 a reality."Douglas County's rollout can also show other communities how cooperation between private interests and state and local governments can dramatically improve public safety. County and state officials worked hard to help private companies launch the technology. The importance of such public-private partnerships cannot be overstated."Last October at a Senate hearing on E-911 technology, I urged wireless companies to get it together with the public safety community and not just meet their new deadlines, but beat them. Folks in my state have proved that a rollout of Phase II technology can be done sooner rather than later."