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January 24, 2015

Dear Maggie Ybarra, it's not possible to route calls through GLONASS

In an article in Washington Times a few days ago, someone called Maggie Ybarra makes the following absurd claim:

The Federal Communications Commission is considering a plan to route U.S. emergency 911 location calls through a Russian satellite system, raising national security alarms inside a Congress dubious of Moscow’s intentions.

I don't think that Maggie Ybarra is a bald-faced liar or a Republican propagandist. Instead, the phrasing seems to indicate that Maggie Ybarra lacks basic understanding of how everyday technology works. The very next paragraph in her opus is factually correct, although incomplete and misleading:

In a proposal before the FCC, the 911 emergency system would rely on the Russian Federation’s GLONASS precision navigation and timing satellite system to locate people calling 911 from their mobile phones.

Least you think Maggie Ybarra is the only journalist in America who is just that ignorant, Andrew Malcolm of IBT reblogged the story thus:

In an alarming story, the Washington Times reports the communications companies believe having the calls routed through Russian satellites would enhance the accuracy of their call locators [...]

The imaginary "911 location calls" of Marie Ybarra have turned into plain old calls of Andrew Malcolm. Naturally, the result is:

Of course, such a system would also give Russians access to the American emergency response network, including the precise locations of every U.S. first responder.

No, it will not, you lying sack of shit.

GLONASS is a Russan clone of GPS, and its receivers do not transmit anything back to its satellites.

P.S. Instapundit (on this blog's blogroll!) runs the story under the headline "WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Wait! What? FCC ponders plan to route U.S. 911 calls through Russian satellites." I cannot imagine the good Professor being that ignorant, even though he's a professor of law. Most likely he didn't read the story he linked.

P.P.S. I suspect I'll be sorry to bring facts into this massive pile of lies and delusion, but actually, a system already exists that already transmits American distress calls through Russian satellites (among other things: it also transmits calls from Russian distress locations through U.S. satellites). It is called COSPAS-SARSAT and its U.S. component is maintained by NOAA. You can buy a terminal at Amazon. The workings of SARSAT are entirely different from what the sad excuse for journalism above rails about. Since, unlike a E911 cellphone, a PLB does not have a data or voice connection with ground infrastructure, it has to tell the rescuers your location somehow. In this case, by seding the signal to (possibly Russian) satellites, which then re-transmit it to relevant agencies of the member countries. I was actually thinking about getting one of those before my big coast-to-coast adventure that I'm plotting here. The privilege of telling Russians where you are is pretty costly though!

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at 02:24 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 477 words, total size 4 kb.

1 My wife dragged me to the theater to see a movie about getting stranded in the ocean while scuba diving. After seeing that, I decided I would want one of those terminals if I ever went out on a boat.

Posted by: Kazriko at January 24, 2015 09:00 PM (Ol9RE)

2 I'm pretty sure more mariners use PLBs than pilots.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at January 24, 2015 09:06 PM (RqRa5)

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