New York Times Opinion Piece: The 911 System Isn’t Ready for the iPhone Era

By Tom Wheeler,  NOV. 23, 2015

IN 1999, Congress established 911 as the nationwide emergency number, and called for a system that would use the best technology available to deliver emergency assistance. Now, 16 years later, our emergency response system faces an emergency of its own in the form of outdated technology. To fix this, our emergency responders — police, fire and ambulance — urgently need the help of government leaders at all levels.

Simply put, the communications technology behind the 911 system is dangerously out of date. Currently, the centers handle about 240 million calls a year, an increasing number of them from cellphones. But many local 911 call centers can’t receive a text, photo or video from a person in need — capabilities that are considered commonplace for any American with a smartphone. Worse, while our nation makes the transition to broadband networks, too many of our 911 call centers rely on decades-old telephone technology — technology that is no longer being supported by commercial vendors and prone to failure. The market forces driving the broadband revolution will soon have the nation’s 911 system resting on a foundation of sand.

The good news is we know what to do. The nation’s 911 call centers need to upgrade to “Next Generation 911,” or NG911. NG911 links 911 call centers to the latest Internet Protocol-based networks, uses mapping databases and software to route calls and pinpoint the real-time location of 911 callers, and supports voice, text, data and video communication. Read complete article here: