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NTIA Files Petition to Update Wireless Priority Service Program

July 10, 2018 by Shawn Cochran, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Policy Analysis and Development

This week, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to update the rules governing Wireless Priority Service (WPS), a program that enables wireless emergency calls to get through if networks are congested.

The petition is designed to update rules governing WPS, which were developed in the late 1990s and have not been updated since the program began following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The WPS program, which originally provided priority access only to cellular network radio channels, has continually evolved to reflect new standards and technologies as well as meet the increased priority communications needs of the national security/emergency preparedness community.

NTIA filed the petition on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), which manages priority telecommunications programs.  

Many of the requests covered in the petition simply seek to align the FCC’s rules with OEC’s current business practices and capabilities, but asks for some increased WPS capabilities, including the following changes:

  • Permit WPS voice calls for a small subset of high-priority WPS users, if needed, to preempt or degrade in-progress, non-911 calls;
  • Extend priority services beyond just voice calls to include data, text, and video services;
  • Require WPS providers and users to provide DHS performance data needed to evaluate program effectiveness;
  • Modify the rules to reflect authorities, organizations and requirements that were not in existence at the time the rules were approved; and 
  • Reflect current capabilities not present or envisioned at the onset of the program, e.g., end-to-end priority, new methods of invoking priority, and refines the rules used to approve and categorize the WPS user base.

The filing is available on the FCC website.