Eight States, Puerto Rico Divert 911 Fees for Other Purposes

January 13, 2017–Eight states and Puerto Rico diverted 911 or enhanced 911 (E911) fees for other purposes during 2015, according to a report released today by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. The eighth such annual report to Congress said that nearly $220.3 million in fees were diverted for other purposes, or about 8.4% of the total in fees collected by all states and territories but 34.3% of the funds collected by the diverting states and territory.

“Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Washington, and West Virginia used a portion of their 911/E911 funds to support non-911 related public safety programs,” according to the 117-page report. “Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico used a portion of their 911/E911 funds for either non-public safety or unspecified uses.”

The percentages of funds diverted ranged from 2.2% by Puerto Rico to 89.9% by New Jersey, according to the report. Some of the states that divert 911 fees for other purposes are repeat offenders. For example, New York, Illinois, and Rhode Island are listed as having done so in each of the eight Public Safety Bureau reports, while Arizona, Georgia, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, New Hampshire, Washington state, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico have been listed at least twice.

The number of states and territories that have diverted 911 funds for other purposes has varied over the years. Starting with the 2009 report, the totals have been eight, 10, seven, six, four, seven, six, and nine.

The report released today also gathered a wealth of other data on matters such as the deployment of next-generation 911 (NG-911) systems and spending on cybersecurity measures. This is the second annual collection of such enhanced data elements.

“Thirty-six states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico reported spending 911/E911 funds on Next Generation 911 (NG911) programs in calendar year 2015. The total amount of reported NG911 expenditures from 911/E911 fees was $164,817,664.55, or approximately 6.26 percent of total 911/E911 fees collected,” according to the report. “Thirteen states and Puerto Rico reported having deployed state-wide Emergency Services IP Networks (ESInets). Fifteen states reported having regional ESInets within the state, and ten states reported local-level ESInets.”

“Forty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico reported on deployment of text-to-911. Collectively, respondents reported 553 PSAPs as being text-capable as of the end of 2015, and projected that an additional 844 PSAPs would be text-capable by the end of 2016,” the report said.

“On the topic of cybersecurity preparedness for Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), thirty-eight states, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands indicated that they spent no 911 funds in 2015 on 911–related cybersecurity programs for PSAPs. Nine states and the District of Columbia stated that they had made cybersecurity-related expenditures,” the report said.

“While almost every state collects 911 fees from in-state subscribers, nineteen states and American Samoa reported that they lack authority to audit service providers to verify that the collected fees accurately reflect the number of in-state subscribers served by the provider,” the report said. “Of the states that have audit authority, eight conducted audits in 2015.”

“Twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands reported collecting 911/E911 fees at the state level, six reported collecting fees at the local level, and sixteen states collected fees at both the state and local level,” according to the report.

Missouri was the only state that didn’t respond to the most recent survey. The annual report is required by Congress. The bureau sought comment on the report. Comments are due Feb. 13 and replies March 15 in PS docket 09-14.

“It’s unfortunate that the practice of certain states to divert 9-1-1 fees appears to continue,” said Derek Poarch, executive director and chief executive officer of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. “At the same time, we appreciate and value the Commission’s efforts to gather more detailed, useful information relating to NG9-1-1 readiness and cybersecurity.  This data will help provide a clearer picture of the status of 9-1-1 across the country, including where progress has been made and the challenges that remain.”

“At a time when so many 9-1-1 program budgets are in crisis, NENA is extremely disappointed to see that hundreds of millions of dollars in 9-1-1 fees are still being diverted by some states to other purposes,” said Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association. “These raids on 9-1-1 funds must cease, both to maintain today’s level of service and to ensure a timely deployment of Next Generation 9-1-1 – a critical infrastructure upgrade that is necessary to ensure the safety and security of all Americans. NENA applauds the FCC for their continued leadership on this issue and is working with decision makers at all levels to ensure 9-1-1’s funding needs are met.”

The National Association of State 911 Administrators had no comment on the report. – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily