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E911 is Needed Throughout the US - Will Funding be Available?


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March 16, 2012

E911 is Needed Throughout the US - Will Funding be Available?

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

With new communications technologies dominating the way in which we work and play, the need to update the 9-1-1 systems throughout the nation take on a whole new meaning. Just last month, President Obama signed the Next Generation 9-1-1 Advancement Act of 2012 to usher in the new era of E911 technologies.

This Kimball report highlights the potential this Act creates by designating $115 million in funding for E911 implementations. The challenge, however, is that the funding may not be available for three years – a lifetime in technology terms. The main cause for the delay is in the origination of funds – from the proceeds of TV spectrum auctions.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) first has to design, implement and facilitate the auctions before any proceeds can become available. The agency has already been met with roadblocks in the process, delaying the availability of advancements in E911 that are desperately needed to protect U.S. citizens.

E911 advancements are not the only initiative to benefit from the funding received through spectrum auctions. A waterfall funding model has been put in place to ensure the distribution of funds to six different initiatives. The money will be distributed in order of priority, fulfilling the needs of the first initiative until it is satisfied, and then moving on to the second initiative, and so on.

E911 efforts placed sixth on the list of initiatives, meaning all others must be satisfied before any progress can be made. The plan also assumes that the auction will generate more than $29 billion in proceeds as the first five initiatives are slated to receive the first $29 billion received. If this goal is not met, where will this leave 9-1-1 advancements in the U.S.?

Grant funds coordinated by the 9-1-1 implementation will help to fund IP networks, training and NG 9-1-1 services, while also supporting basic and enhanced 9-1-1, or E911, implementation. State and local entities are both eligible to receive grants under the Act, although such awards will require a 40 percent match with local funds.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and publish proposed regulations on the selection criteria within the next few months. There is still time for interested parties to weigh in on E911 plans and selection criteria for implementation. A public comment period is required by the Act and must take place before the final regulations are to the released.

Congress is cracking down on the diversion of 9-1-1 funds, trying to put a priority on the funding and development of E911 technologies. The challenge, however, is a lack of understanding of the role E911 plays in responding to emergencies, natural disasters and more. As communication technologies continue to evolve, so must the networks that support them. 

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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