Modernizing our emergency communications infrastructure is critical to keeping Americans safe. With almost 27 percent of U.S. consumers in wireless-only households, emergency responders must be able to receive and respond to wireless distress calls. On the blog, we’ve discussed the importance of next generation 911 (NG911) networks with location accuracy and accessibility, and today’s focus is on the best framework for deploying the NG911 system .
Wireless providers have closely collaborated with the public safety community and technology developers to deliver the crucial emergency services customers rely on. We’ve established a baseline framework for NG911 deployment, and we urged the FCC to leave the remaining work on new technologies and interoperability to standards organizations and stakeholder groups. With finite resources available to support a transition, we face significant technical challenges that must be addressed before new regulations are adopted.
With the variety of services, technologies and media associated with NG911 services, it is crucial for the FCC to provide liability protection for all service providers. Unlike with legacy 911 communications, it is possible the NG911 could mean neither the carrier nor the wireless device would know an emergency call was placed. How? If a third-party social media application placed an emergency “call” over a Wi-Fi network, which wouldn’t involve the carrier’s network. To prevent legal exposure for service providers that could cause serious delays to the NG911 transition, the FCC must clearly define the roles and responsibilities as well as the liabilities of service providers, device manufacturers and application developers.
Lastly, the multi-jurisdictional oversight and funding model that supports legacy 911 systems is riddled with inefficiencies. It’s also burdensome for consumers. With local, state and federal governments often charging duplicate fees on the same service, consumers are being unfairly overcharged. As we mentioned, it’s even more troubling when the FCC’s report shows 13 states used their 911 funds to support other services or cover their general budget deficits. This is clearly against federal policy that requires 911 funds to only be spent in support of maintaining and upgrading 911 services. We support federal legislation that would place clear parameters with real consequences to ensure 911 fees only support the next generation 911 services.