FCC Action Expected this Year in NSI Phone Proceeding

The FCC is expected to take action “later this year” in its non-service-initialized (NSI) phone proceeding, according to David Furth, deputy chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. But Mr. Furth did not offer any time line at a Capitol Hill event today for when the Commission might act next in a “sunny-day” 911 outage proceeding. “We’re working on it actively,” he said in response to a question at a luncheon sponsored by the NG9-1-1 Institute. “I don’t think I can give you a sense of timing at this point.”

In April, the FCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking that proposed to eliminate, after six months, the requirement that wireless carriers forward 911 calls from NSI handsets to public safety answering points (PSAPs) (TRDaily, April 2). In comments filed earlier this month, public safety and wireless entities generally disagreed on whether the FCC should eliminate the requirement (TRDaily, June 8).

Public safety entities said the Commission should phase out the rule, citing what they said are a huge number of harassing or crank calls to PSAPs from NSI phones, while most wireless entities said the FCC should keep it, citing the benefits it provides legitimate callers. A group that helps domestic violence victims also opposed elimination of the mandate, citing the benefits of NSI phones to those victims.

Regarding the 911 outage proceeding, the FCC last November adopted an NPRM that proposed requiring 911 communications service providers to provide public notice of major outages and requiring potential new providers to certify their technical and operational qualifications (TRDaily, Nov. 21, 2014). In response, a myriad of industry entities criticized the NPRM, while some state, 911, and public safety entities said that while they supported some of the FCC’s proposals, they opposed any FCC actions that would usurp state and local control over PSAPs (TRDaily, March 24).

Mr. Furth also noted today that more than 350 PSAPs now support text-to-911 or are in the process of doing so, adding that the FCC expects that number to continue to grow. “Text-to-911 has been easily integrated into those PSAPs that have adopted it,” he said. The bureau announced yesterday that about 575 individual PSAPs or groups of PSAPs are on a registry as being ready for text-to-911 services.

Steve Souder, director of the Fairfax County, Va., Department of Public Safety Communications, said at today’s luncheon that his county and others in the National Capital Region plan to be ready for text-to-911 services this fall. Asked if his employees were finding it difficult to prepare for receiving texts, he said, “They’re all millennials. They grew up with this stuff in their crib.”

He said that Fairfax County has chosen “a web browser solution and a third-party provider.” Mr. Souder chairs the FCC’s Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture. He stressed today the importance of planning for next-generation 911 deployment, saying there is only a “one-time opportunity to get it as right as we can.” He also agreed about the need to integrate NG-911 into the deployment of the nationwide public safety broadband system being overseen by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

Scott Roper, executive director of the Maryland Emergency Number Systems Board, outlined the various funding models that states and localities could consider for funding NG-911 deployment and stressed that not any single solution will work for everyone. But he said that any funding “needs to be protected from diversions” for non-911 purposes. As for governance, he said he believes that “state models really work well,” and he cited the importance of a “good, sound independent board” that decides funding distribution and falls “outside political pressure.”- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com