FCC Finds States ‘Divert’ Nearly 10% of 911 Fees

Nearly 10% of the total 911 fees collected by all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia in 2017 were diverted to other purposes, the FCC said today in its annual report to Congress on 911 and enhanced 911 fees and charges, which it released for public comment.

Diversion occurred in Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the FCC said.  “The total amount of 911/E911 funds diverted by all reporting jurisdictions in calendar year 2017 was $284,968,912.66, or approximately 9.70% of total 911/E911 fees collected,” it added.  The annual report is mandated by the New and Emerging Technologies 911 Improvement Act of 2008 (NET 911 Act).

In a public notice, the FCC requested comments on the report be filed in PS docket 09-14 by Jan. 18, and reply comments by Feb. 4.

“As an initial matter, we seek comment on the sufficiency and accuracy of the reported information, including additional information concerning the specific impact, if any, that such diversion has had on the provision of 911 service in those states. We also seek comment on whether there have been any other instances of fee diversion by states or local jurisdictions not identified in the Report, including counties or other jurisdictions in states that have local or hybrid fee collection programs,” it said.

“Secondly, we seek comment on potential ways to dissuade states and other jurisdictions from continuing or instituting 911 fee diversion,” it added.

Regarding next generation 911, the FCC sought comment “on whether NG911 expenditures identified over the past three years are representative of overall NG911 expenditures, indicative of a trend in expected future expenditures, and whether the identified expenditures are adequate for implementation of NG911 services and infrastructure nationwide.”

It added, “Eleven states, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands reported not spending any money on NG911. We seek comment on the impact of this failure to prepare for impending communications-sector IP technology transition, including the impact on commercial providers and on consumers and communities.”

It also sought comment on the impact of the lack of auditing authority over service providers in many states “to verify that the collected fees accurately reflect the number of in-state subscribers served by the provider.”

In a statement, Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who has been vocal on the 911 fee diversion issue, said, “The Commission’s release of its ‘Tenth Annual Report to Congress on State Collection and Distribution of 911 and Enhanced 911 Fees and Charges’ provides a lot of helpful data, and I am pleased to see that, for the first time, all states and territories responded to the Commission’s information request. The list of states and territories, however, that redirected consumer-paid 9-1-1 fees for other purposes — a focus of my attention for some time — remains completely objectionable (see Table 16 from FCC report).

“This harmful behavior short-changes call centers and prevents necessary upgrades, thereby threatening the public’s safety at their most vulnerable time, or it deceives consumers by stealing their money for other spending purposes. Having had some success this year eliminating diversion by some states and territories, this year’s list highlights how much more work remains and how it is clear that some repeat offenders cannot be shamed (e.g., NY, NJ, RI). I will continue my efforts to end this horrible practice, and I am hopeful that Congress will reiterate its opposition to 9-1-1 fee diversion, including by exploring further legislative means to prevent it,” he added. —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily