FCC Urged to Provide More Guidance on 911 Fee Diversion

The FCC should provide further guidance of what constitutes 911 fee diversion by states, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International and CTIA said in comments filed in response to a report that concluded that six states in 2016 diverted 911 fees for other purposes (TR Daily, Feb. 7).

The report by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau said that the total amount diverted by reporting jurisdictions was $128.9 million, or about 5% of the total collected in 911/enhanced 911 fees. The report, the ninth annual document to Congress on fee diversions, said that the following states diverted 911 fees for other purposes: New Jersey, West Virginia, Illinois, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and New York. New York was the only one of the six diverting states that did not submit a report to the FCC for the report. But the Commission said that “sufficient public record information exists to support a finding that New York diverted funds for non-public safety uses.”

In its comments in PS docket 09-14, APCO urged the FCC to define NG-911 for its information collection and provide more guidance on diversions.

“Full implementation of NG9-1-1 should be defined as end-to-end (from the caller to the telecommunicator) IP connectivity enabling current voice communications, future multimedia, and other data capabilities to flow from the 9-1-1 caller to the PSAP and be properly reported, archived, and further transmitted between the PSAP and first responders,” it said.

APCO also said that the annual 911 reports have demonstrated that “there may be disagreement about what qualifies as fee diversion. APCO commends the Commission for its well-reasoned fee diversion determinations contained in the most recent and prior reports. States should receive clear notice as to what constitutes 9-1-1 fee diversion in order to properly document and combat this practice. In this regard, it may be helpful for the Commission to provide additional guidance on what constitutes fee diversion in advance of future information collections, for example, by including a record of its previous determinations.”

The public safety group also said that “given the ongoing innovation for NG9-1-1 solutions, APCO recommends that the Commission revises its questions about NG9-1-1 services and expenditures to recognize additional, ‘non-traditional’ architectural and technological options being made available, and seek more detailed information about the approaches states are taking to NG9-1-1. For example, rather than asking respondents to describe the type and number of emergency service IP networks (ESInets) operated, the Commission could ask an open-ended question about the nature and functions provided by NG9-1-1 solutions adopted by the state. This could include information such as ESInet deployment, cloud-based call handling or dispatch services, real-time text solutions, etc.”

In its filing, CTIA said, “State diversion of 9-1-1 fees violates the public’s trust and is a serious impediment for sustaining and advancing 9-1-1 services” and it endorsed further FCC actions to address 911 fee diversion. “For example, the Commission, working with NTIA, should consider adopting guidelines as to what expenditures qualify as ‘in support of’ 9-1-1 and NG911 and Center received what expenditures do not. Among other things, these guidelines would provide direction for use of state or local 9-1-1 fees.

Moving 9-1-1 fees into a state’s general purpose fund is a blatant misuse of those fees. But the Commission should consider doing more, for example declaring that general purpose public safety expenditures that have no connection to wireless services should not be funded by 9-1-1 fees on consumers’ wireless bills.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily