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FCC Provides NG 9-1-1 Recommendations to Congress in New Report (2/28/13)
The FCC released a report to Congress with recommendations for the legal and statutory framework for next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) services. The report noted the importance of transitioning to an NG 9-1-1 system that uses IP-based technology to deliver and process 9-1-1 traffic.

The FCC offered recommendations in three areas identified by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which required the report. First, with respect to creating a legal and regulatory framework for NG 9-1-1, the FCC recommended that Congress create incentives for states to become early adopters of NG 9-1-1. “This will accelerate the transition in these states while also generating valuable experience with NG 9-1-1implementation that can make the transition easier for other states to follow,” the report said.

The commission also recommended that Congress encourage state-level governance of NG 9-1-1 deployment, but that it also consider creating a federal regulatory “backstop” to ensure that there is no gap between federal and state authority over NG 9-1-1. In addition, Congress should promote a consistent nationwide approach to key elements of NG 9-1-1 deployment, including standards that support seamless communications among public-safety answering points (PSAPs) and between PSAPs and emergency responders, the report said.

The FCC suggested reforms to the NG 9-1-1 funding structure; appropriate liability protection to encourage technological innovation and rapid deployment of NG 9-1-1; and provisions to make NG 9-1-1 fully accessible to people with disabilities.

The commission also said Congress should promote the development of location technologies that will support all NG 9-1-1 applications regardless of the network or device used by the caller. “We also recommend that Congress support establishment at the national level of certain databases that support NG 9-1-1 routing and security,” the report said. “These national-level databases would provide economies of scale, reduce NG 9-1-1 transition costs for states and localities, and promote consistent adoption of technical standards nationwide.”

Reforms to eliminate legacy state regulations that are impeding NG 9-1-1 deployment, while providing incentives for states to modernize their laws and regulations to accommodate NG 9-1-1 will enable service providers to support an expanded array of NG 9-1-1 services and applications. The reforms will also facilitate the deployment of more flexible and resilient network architecture to support NG 9-1-1 operations, the FCC said.

The report adopts many recommendations from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). Brian Fontes, NENA CEO, said the association is particularly pleased with the following recommendations:

• An incentive-based model proposed for nearly every one of the FCC’s proposals to Congress. “We believe this will drive better results faster than a more prescriptive approach,” he said.

• Strong recommendations with respect to the need to provide a national regulatory backstop; ensure that location determination obligations are clearly spelled out in law; and provide critical NG 9-1-1 infrastructure components at the federal level.

• A key challenge for Congress will be to level the playing field for 9-1-1 in federal grant funding programs, so that the necessary incentives can be meaningful. 9-1-1 improvements are not included in the allowable costs for most federal public-safety grant programs. Congress can fix this disparity without appropriating a single new dollar, and it should, Fontes said.

More than 240 million 9-1-1 calls are made in the United States each year, and there are 6,000 PSAPs in the United States.

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