- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Cellular phone companies are aggressively promoting their products as an alternative to landline phones. But so far cell phone service is not up to snuff, according to a prominent consumer group.
A February Consumer Reports cover story on cell phones and wireless services focuses mostly on two shortcomings of cell phones compared with landline phones: They cannot be instantly pinpointed by 911 operators, and users must change their phone number whenever they switch carriers.
The Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, plans to pressure the Federal Communications Commission to move up its mandated deadlines for the implementation of "Enhanced 911" service, which allows 911 operators to pinpoint cell phone locations.
The Consumers Union said it also wants the FCC to enforce its mandates allowing consumers to switch carriers without changing phone numbers.
"While cell phone providers have tried to portray themselves as alternatives to landline telephones, they have not delivered on their promises to consumers," said Consumers Union CEO and President James Guest. "We call upon the FCC to carry out what it has already mandated but is dragging its feet on."
The FCC has already mandated that Enhanced 911 be in place on 95 percent of cell phones by 2005. Along the way, carriers have been asked to meet certain mandates every six months, including a Dec. 31, 2001 deadline requiring 25 percent of all new phones to have Enhanced 911 capacity.
The FCC has also mandated that cell-phone providers allow users to switch carriers without changing numbers, but it has postponed its deadline numerous times at the request of providers.
Analysts say that mandate is unpopular among carriers because it would make it easier for consumers to switch from one carrier to another.
The Consumers Union called for carriers to provide Enhanced 911 "well before" 2005, arguing that the technology is already in feasible and easy to implement.

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