February 24, 2017–The Trump administration and Congress should help ensure that next-generation 911 (NG-911) services become a reality, according to Brian Fontes, chief executive officer of the National Emergency Number Association. In a column today for “The Hill” newspaper, Mr. Fontes cited issues that have long plagued 911 deployment, including in fragmented leadership and policy and inadequate funding.
“Because 9-1-1 systems operated by local, county, regional or state authorities, a nationwide deployment of NG911 depends on educating, motivating and coordinating thousands of leaders at all levels. The federal government can and should be involved because public safety threats routinely cross state boundaries, and all Americans expect high-performing 9-1-1 services, no matter where they happen to live, work, or travel.” Mr. Fontes argued.
“The traditional revenue stream for 9-1-1 – state and local fees on landline phone service – has shrunk as more than half of U.S. households have gone wireless-only,” he said. “Making matters worse, states often redirect the 9-1-1 fees they do collect to other purposes. Nearly $250 million was siphoned away in 2014, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
“At the federal level, since 2001, Congress has provided $158 million for various NG911 pilot projects – which has been welcome support – but it’s an average of just $3 million per state spread over 15 years. During the same period, Congress has rightly supported the needs of field responders by appropriating more than $7 billion for the development of advanced radio networks and services,” Mr. Fontes noted. “A better funding model would provide predictable, adequate funding for NG911 from a mix of state and federal sources for both capital and operating expenditures, allowing for strong performance day-to-day and continuous improvement long-term,” he said.
“The good news is that the technology and standards to make NG911 a reality are available today. Leaders of public safety, industry and government have been working for years on the details of the transition and have set an aggressive goal of full nationwide deployment by the end of 2020,” Mr. Fontes noted, citing the aim of the NG911 NOW Coalition. “Getting there will require greater commitment and leadership from Congress, the Trump administration, and all levels of government. But getting there will bring our emergency infrastructure into the 21st century, strengthen our collective security, and provide better emergency service to more than 650,000 callers every day.” – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org