October 11, 2016–An FCC official today noted that the agency lacks authority to restrict states from diverting funds collected for 911 services, but he suggested that Congress could pass legislation that provides incentives for states that don’t. “The FCC does not have that authority,” Tim May, 911 project manager in the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said this afternoon during a webinar organized by the National 911 Program. But he added, “Congress itself can play a role through creating incentives perhaps for states not to divert in the form of special grants.”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and other agency officials have repeatedly called on Congress to take actions to help the deployment of next-generation 911 (NG-911) services. Mr. May noted that the bureau is completing work on its latest report to Congress on states that divert 911 surcharges for other purposes. The report is due by the end of this calendar year and will be released publicly in January 2017, he said.
On other 911 activities, he said the FCC is pleased that stakeholders have been busy taking steps to implement mandates in the indoor 911 location accuracy order adopted by the Commission last year (TRDaily, Jan. 29, 2015). For example, he noted, it was announced last week that West Corp. has been selected to develop and operate the National Emergency Address Database (NEAD), a key component in implementing the rules (TRDaily, Oct. 4).
Mr. May also noted that the Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council has prepared a report with recommendations of potential location-based 911 routing methods. Location-based routing is key to the deployment of NG-911, Mr. May’s presentation said.
Also, additional public safety answering points (PSAPs) are getting ready to accept text-to-911 messages, Mr. May said. “We’ve seen slow, but steady, adoption of text-to-911 by PSAPs, and we’re encouraged by the positive experiences that PSAPs that have adopted it so far are seeing,” he said.
Eight states plus Puerto Rico have statewide or near-statewide text-to-911 capability, he said. He added that about 603 counties have at least one PSAP that can receive texts. Those counties cover about 20% of the U.S. population. He also said that as of last month, about 656 of the approximately 6,500 PSAPs in the U.S. had registered with the FCC that they were capable of receiving texts, but he said the number is likely higher because some PSAPs don’t register. The bureau’s updated registry today showed that about 750 PSAPs were text-to-911 ready. – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org