On February 14, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was publicly notified by the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD) administrator, NEAD LLC, that the NEAD had been fully decommissioned and would not be made available to the public safety community.
NEAD was originally envisioned in the Roadmap for Improving E911 Location Accuracy, which was agreed upon by the four major wireless carriers, NENA and APCO in 2014. One of the provisions of the roadmap called for establishing a new service, the NEAD, within 36 months of adoption of the roadmap. The NEAD was to be a database of unique addresses of wireless beacons, such as WiFi access points, and a dispatchable location associated with each of them. Wireless devices could then determine which address a 9-1-1 caller was associated with by evaluating which access points they were near. Standards for the NEAD were developed by the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), and major US wireless carriers stood up the NEAD, with FCC approval for its privacy and security plan, according to targets agreed-upon in the 2014 roadmap.
Unfortunately, as reported to the FCC in 2019, the NEAD program ran into a host of logistical issues in provisioning of database information and underperformed in testing, indicating that the program was not sustainable and would not service public safety?s needs. Even in relatively optimistic test conditions, the ATIS Test Bed reported that NEAD provided a correct dispatchable location for less than 50% of calls and reported either no address or an incorrect address for about 25% of calls. This, compounded with the logistical issues NEAD faced in collecting and provisioning initial address information for WiFi hotspots, led for broad industry support falling for the program, including among the NEAD steering and technical advisory committees in which NENA, APCO and the major wireless carriers all participate.
We note that the wireless technology ecosystem has changed considerably since the 2014 roadmap was established. At that time, we did not have special emergency location services methods built into major mobile operating systems and we did not have market-ready barometric-sensing altitude measurement systems available to consumer smartphones, let alone whatever the future holds. The market has evolved to provide solutions that may be used to fulfill the need that the NEAD was originally envisioned for, and potentially at a commercial scale that far exceeds what the 2014 roadmap had ever envisioned.
While supportive of the NEAD?s objectives, NENA was skeptical of the NEAD approach from the beginning, and accordingly insisted on the inclusion of several other guarantees in the 2014 roadmap. Despite our skepticism, we are disappointed that the NEAD approach has proven unsuccessful. Civic address?and indeed, the ?door to knock on??remain a crucial long-term goal for 9-1-1, but we cannot shortcut the path to accurate, sustainable, actionable location information. NENA is committed to ensuring public safety is provided with the best possible 9-1-1 location information and will remain vigilant in overseeing industry progress toward this goal.
We thank those who strove to make the NEAD a success.