According to James Soukup, director of Durham Emergency Communications Center (DECC), more than one million cell phone users across the United States will lose phone service and access to 911 on February 19.
"We have been advised that AT&T Mobility, Alltel, Cellular One, Verizon Wireless and other cellular providers will be turning off their analog networks on February 19 due to a change in Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements," Soukup said. "This means that our residents who use analog cell phones, which include most cell phones that are more than five years old, will be unable to dial 911 for emergency assistance."
According to Soukup, U.S. Cellular has stated that despite the change in FCC requirements, it would continue providing analog service to its customers until late 2008.
"Digital phone users will not be affected by this shutdown," Soukup said. "Digital phones differ from analog phones because they can have text or instant messaging capabilities, Internet browsing capabilities, an MP3 player, integrated camera or a SIM card. The February 19 deadline is only critical for analog uses. We want to make sure analog users are aware of this upcoming change and can take the necessary steps now to ensure they have 911 access."
Both the DECC and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) advises cell phone users who cannot tell if their phones will be affected by this change, should not contact the DECC, but instead take them to any local cellular phone retail location for assistance.
For more information about the national analog cell phone system shut down, visit the FCC's Web site at www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/analogcellphone.html.