WASHINGTON, DC – The Communications and Technology Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), today held a hearing entitled, “Realizing Nationwide Next-Generation 911.”
The voice, text, video and data capabilities of today’s smartphones have redefined the way we communicate and live our lives and our first responders will soon have the robust broadband communications capabilities of FirstNet. But the nation’s 911 network – which ties the public to our first responders – may not be keeping pace with these technologies. #SubCommTech examined where the nation currently stands in modernizing our 911 services with these next generation technologies and avenues to move this critical component to public safety forward.
“Today we all carry devices that allow us to communicate by voice, by text, by email, and by video. And now that we are at the threshold of deployment of FirstNet, our nation’s first responders will have a dedicated network to do the same. But our 911 networks, which are based on the technologies of the past, do not provide a seamless connection between the two,” said full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR). “Only by bringing IP-based technology to the Nation’s Public Safety Answering Points – the professionals that are the first voice you hear when you call for help – can we bring the full promise of modern technology to serve us in times of emergency.”
Barry Ritter, Executive Director of the State 911 Board for the State of Indiana, discussed the importance of public-private collaboration, commenting, “It is important to understand that funding alone is not enough to achieve NG911 in the US. Leadership, collaboration and cooperation between local, state and federal government – and between industry partners and industry associations is also a must.”
Mary Boyd, Vice President of Regulatory, Policy and External Affairs at West Safety Services on behalf of Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies, discussed the urgency to implementing NG911 in a more timely manner, stating, “As a nation, we cannot continue to let 9-1-1 fall behind – we must act. The good news is that much of the work has been done to enable the transition to NG911. The roadmap is there. … Now is the time to accelerate our progress down the transition path. Funding for accelerated implementation of NG911 services across the U.S. will provide significant benefits and improved security and emergency services for; the public, vulnerable and underserved populations, 9-1-1 professionals, and our first responders.”
“Realizing NG911 services throughout the nation is critical, but as with any large-scale transition there are challenges that must be overcome. Issues regarding such matters as funding, governance, and ensuring the security of the network are but a few. … Yet while funding is a challenge, studies reveal a troubling pattern whereby some states divert money collected from consumers intended for 911 services that could assist with the NG911 transition,” said Chairman Blackburn. “Every member of this committee should agree to work together to tackle this issue aggressively. We should recognize that this transition is underway and these challenges are not insurmountable. According to an FCC report, twelve states report that NG911 is operational in 100 percent of the state – my home state of Tennessee among them. A solid start for our nation but well short of where I think we need to be.”
A background memo, witness testimony, and an archived webcast of the hearing can be found on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website HERE.