Tags: Russia | Russian satellites | 911 | proposal | FCC | Mike Rogers

Proposal to Use Russian Satellites for 911 Calls Under Fire

By    |   Wednesday, 21 January 2015 10:29 PM

A proposal to use Russian satellites in tandem with the United States' emergency 911 system is coming under fire.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering the plan, which was put together by the main wireless phone companies in the U.S. — AT&T Mobility, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon. The Washington Times reports the FCC will vote to approve or deny the proposal on Jan. 29.

Under the plan, some emergency calls made from mobile phones would be rooted through GLONASS, Russia's navigation and timing satellite system, in order to pinpoint a caller's location. Critics say the plan leaves the U.S. open to Russia either spying on the U.S. through the satellites or crippling the 911 system.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces, wrote to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about his concerns with the proposal.

"In view of the threat posed to the world by Russia's Vladimir Putin, it cannot be seriously considered that the U.S. would rely on a system in that dictator's control for its wireless 911 location capability," Rogers wrote, according to the Times.

"Our response to Russia's hybrid warfare, arms control cheating, illegal invasions of sovereign nations, and energy-based extortion must be broad-based isolation and counter-leverage."

The Russian satellite system would be used because American satellites do not provide ample coverage across the country. And GPS services from cellphones are particularly poor when the caller is inside a building.

According to the Times, Sprint said that no cellphone carrier would use the Russian satellites on an exclusive basis.

The FCC, meanwhile, is reviewing other proposals that would improve 911 location capabilities.

Retired Rear Adm. David Simpson, who heads the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, told the Times all options are on the table.

"We are committed to protecting both public safety and national security as we continue to examine the input and issues in the proceeding, and will coordinate with our colleagues across the government to ensure that national security needs are addressed," Simpson said.

The proposal does not mark the first time the Russian government has been considered in a plan involving American infrastructure. Two years ago, the State Department considered allowing Russia's space agency to build six buildings with antennas and other electronic devices across the U.S., according to the Times.

GLONASS, according to a Newsweek report, is Russia's version of GPS. The country's Air Force is now using the system, which it recently tested on SU-25 fighter jets.

The Newsweek story claims that 26 GLONASS satellites have been built, and 24 are currently in orbit. The system came under fire last April when it was offline for half a day, resulting in location miscalculations by more than 50 kilometers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the project in 2001 and touted it as a way to replace the aging Soviet satellite navigation system, according to Newsweek.

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A proposal to use Russian satellites in tandem with the United States' emergency 911 system is coming under fire.
Russian satellites, 911, proposal, FCC, Mike Rogers
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 10:29 PM
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