Today there was a meeting regarding the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) oversight responsibilities, conducted by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee.
I am encouraged by the recommendation regarding funding for NG9-1-1.
Below is the testimony of FCC Chairman Wheeler:
Text of Wheeler Testimony on NG9-1-1
During my tenure as FCC Chairman, and in my prior testimony before this Subcommittee, I have been very vocal about the urgent need to improve our 911 system. The recent tragedies in Orlando, San Bernardino, and too many other cities highlight the importance of 911 in times of crisis.
The Commission has taken action to improve the quality and accuracy of 911, and there is good news to report. We see industry is stepping up to many of the challenges, improving 911 location accuracy, supporting text-to-911, and generally investing to improve network reliability and resiliency.
But effective 911 service depends on our nation’s 911 call centers. These Public Safety Answering Points, or PSAPs, must have technology to receive and process calls quickly, accurately locate callers, and dispatch an appropriate response. The unfortunate fact is that 911, designed originally for analog voice, doesn’t scale effortlessly to the advanced digital, wireless, and multi-media technology landscape. In too many communities, the PSAPs are relying on dangerously out of date technology, and the transition to Next Generation 911 (NG911) – envisioned by Congress in 1999 when it established 911 as the national emergency number – has not started or is stalled. Resource-strapped local jurisdictions struggle to maintain existing 911 service, let alone to achieve Congress’s NG911 vision.
Industry and many states, counties, and cities are working hard to address transition risk and achieve NG911 capabilities. Nearly 20 percent of counties now support text-to-911. Many jurisdictions are building out their Emergency Services IP Networks – the basic backbone for NG911 in their communities.
But these islands of progress are the exception, not the rule. Unless we find a way to help the nation’s PSAPs overcome the funding, planning, and operational challenges they face as commercial communications networks evolve, NG911 will remain beyond reach for much of the nation. Let me be clear on this point: 911 service quality will not stay where it is today, it will degrade if we don’t invest in NG911.
Congress has the unique ability to accelerate the transition to NG911. A clear national call to action, with timely application of resources, would actually lower NG911 transition costs by shortening the transition period and enabling 911 authorities to retire costly legacy facilities more quickly. Here are three ways that Congress could help:
National 911 Map: PSAPs are increasingly dependent on electronic maps for 911 routing and location, but the maps that they rely on should not end at the county or state line. Congress could authorize and fund the FCC (in collaboration with DOT) to create a national 911 map that would be available to every PSAP and would eliminate the seams between commercial communications network infrastructure and emergency response dispatch systems.
Cybersecurity Defenses for PSAPs: PSAPs face the same cyber vulnerabilities that have proven so challenging to both government and commercial organizations, but most lack trained workforce and the necessary tools for cyber defense. Congress could bring PSAP IP Networks under the protective umbrella of DHS’s “Einstein” program by funding the deployment of intrusion detection sensors for NG911 networks.
National NG911 Implementation Date with Matching Funds: Currently, there is no national timetable or target date for completing the transition to NG911. Congress could establish a nationwide NG911 implementation date (e.g., to complete the transition by the end of 2020) and authorize matching funds to help state and local communities achieve this goal. Congress can further jump start this effort by ensuring that federally run PSAPs and Emergency Operations Centers make achievement of NG911 capability a funding priority.
This Committee has commendably made public safety a priority, and I urge you to do everything in your power to make sure our nation’s 911 system evolves safely as it adjusts to achieve your NG911 vision and that PSAPs have the tools and support they need to avoid undue risk in the transition.