US carriers face fines over emergency phone rule

US federal regulators proposed fining three wireless carriers a combined $2.8 million for failing to give enough consumers cell phones equipped with emergency location technology, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the US Federal Communications Commission plans to fine Sprint Nextel $1.3 million, Alltel $1 million and United States Cellular $500,000.

But the companies have 30 days to argue why they should not be fined, the FCC said.

The agency said the three companies failed to meet a December 31, 2005 deadline, requiring 95% of the wireless carriers' subscribers to have handsets that are 'location-capable,' that is, equipped with a global positioning satellite chip, the Associated Press report said.

The report added that Sprint and Alltel representatives said their companies are now compliant or mostly compliant with FCC rules. A representative for US Cellular could not immediately comment.

The three companies are the only wireless carriers to be fined for violating this rule, according to the FCC.

Stephanie Walsh, a Sprint Nextel spokeswoman, said the company has effectively reached compliance. She said a January analysis showed a penetration rate of 94.7%.

Alltel spokesman Andrew Moreau said the company has taken 'extraordinary measures' to convince customers to change their older phones without the location-capable technology to newer ones, the reoprt further said.