NENA News, Press, & Stories...: Government Affairs

Bi-Partisan Amendment Promotes Next Generation 9-1-1

Thursday, December 1, 2011  
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Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) around the country received encouraging news on December 1, as a bipartisan group of Representatives in the House passed an amendment aimed at improving the capabilities of the nation’s 9-1-1 centers. Previously introduced as H.R. 2629, the Next Generation 9-1-1 Advancement Act, the amendment, introduced jointly by Representatives John Shimkus (R-IL) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), reauthorizes the National 9-1-1 Office at the Department of Transportation and authorizes grants totaling $250,000,000 over five years to upgrade 9-1-1 capabilities, bringing text messaging and other advanced features to the nation’s 9-1-1 centers. 

NENA: The 9-1-1 Association, which represents public safety officials and the 9-1-1 technology community, heralded the amendment as a testament to the importance the public and Congress place on robust emergency communications systems. "Alongside the other public safety measures included in both the majority and minority bills, now is clearly the right time for Congress to take up NG9-1-1 legislation,” said NENA President Rick Galway. "The deployment of emergency text, photo, and video capabilities for consumers should happen alongside the deployment of those same technologies for police officers, fire fighters, and EMTs,” Galway added, referring to the need for a public safety broadband network. The two provisions could eventually work together to provide an end-to-end path for communications technologies the public is already using on a day-to-day basis, but which have not previously been available for use in emergency calling or by responders in the field.

For some, these measures are a particularly welcome advance. Millions of Americans with hearing or speech disabilities are limited to using legacy technology because current networks and 9-1-1 systems cannot handle text messages sent to 9-1-1. The provisions of the Eshoo-Shimkus Amendment, however, would allow 9-1-1 authorities to deploy modern equipment capable of receiving text messages as carrier networks are upgraded to route them quickly and correctly based on the user’s location.

Details of the amendment:

National Implementation and Coordination Office
  • The National ICO would be reauthorized through FY 2017.  
  • The ICO would be jointly administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • The legislation would secure $250 million for PSAPs to implement IP-Based infrastructure, NG 9-1-1 technology and services, and support training for the migration to NG 9-1-1.  
  • States must certify that 9-1-1 fees collected from consumers are being used for their intended purposes for PSAPs within that state to qualify for funding. 
Multi-Line Telephone Systems (MLTS)
  • Requires the General Services Administration (GSA), in conjunction with the ICO, to issue a report to Congress on the capabilities of 9-1-1 services in all Federal buildings and property.  
  • Requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue a Notice of Inquiry examining the feasibility of requiring MLTS manufacturers to provide location capability.
General Accounting Office (GAO) Study
  • Requires the GAO to conduct a study on the imposition of taxes, fees, and other charges designated for the purpose of funding 9-1-1 systems.  The GAO is also required to examine the use of funds generated by such taxes, fees, and other charges.
Parity of Liability Protection
  • The legislation would provide NG 9-1-1 applications and services the same federal liability immunity that is afforded to voice calls over POTS, mobile phones, and VoIP.  This would ensure that texting, video or photo communications between citizens and PSAPs are treated the same way as voice calls are today with respect to liability exposure.
  • The FCC would be required to initiate a proceeding to create a special "Do Not Call" Registry for PSAPs.