Sprint, Alltel, USC fined for missed e911 deadline

The FCC has fined Sprint, Alltel and U.S. Cellular a total of $2.83 million for not meeting the December 31, 2005 deadline for enhanced 911 services. By the end of 2005, all wireless carriers had to ensure that 95 percent of their subscribers had location-enabled handsets that could allow 911 responders to find them in an emergency. According to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, the three carriers "failed to meet this critical deadline by a significant margin, despite the clear requirements of the commission and the needs of their consumers."

Sprint Nextel missed the 95 percent requirement by the widest margin: Only 81 percent of its subscribers had location-enabled handsets by the end of 2005. The FCC fined Sprint $1.33 million. Alltel only reached an 84 percent penetration rate by the deadline and took 17 months to make it to 95 percent. The FCC fined it $1 million. U.S. Cellular had a 89 percent penetration rate at deadline and reached 95 percent some eight months later. The FCC has penalized it $500,000.

Now the carriers have 30 days to pay up or to petition the fees.

Alltel's spokesman Andrew Moreau said that Alltel believes that "the FCC's timetable for compliance may have underestimated customers' willingness to exchange phones." Sprint had other issues: In mid-2004 a "software glitch" disabled the location-tracking capabilities in 4.7 million Motorola iDEN handsets on Nextel's network. Pre-merger Sprint would have been the first carrier to hit the 95 percent mark. Sprint-Nextel is just .3 percentage points away from finally hitting the required penetration rate.

For more on the fines:
- read FCC Chairman Martin's reprimand of the offending carriers
- check out this article from CNET