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Congressional Report Examines Next-Gen 9-1-1


TMCnews Featured Article

May 07, 2010

Congressional Report Examines Next-Gen 9-1-1

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

In February, TMCnet reported on Intrado's support of the FCC's (News - Alert) recommendation to include Next Generation 9-1-1 as part of the Commission's obligation with the National Broadband Plan.

In a recent Congressional Research Service report, it was observed that today's 911 system is built on an infrastructure of analog technology that cannot support many of the features most Americans expect is a part of an emergency response. As new technologies continue to emerge and are integrated into this legacy infrastructure, calls can be dropped or misdirected.

To create a nationwide system that can provide the quality of service that approaches the expectation users have in regards to the 911 service, Public Safety Answering Points, and state, local and even federal agencies will have to invest in new technologies.

Emerging as Next Generation 911, this new IP-enabled emergency communications network supporting 911 will facilitate interoperability and system resilience in receiving and managing calls. It is expected that this same network will serve wireless broadband communications for public safety and other emergency personnel.

In recognizing the importance of providing effective 911 service, three major bills have been passed by Congress that support improvements in the handling of 911 emergency calls. The first was the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 which established 911 as the number to call for emergencies and gave the FCC the authority to regulate many aspects of the service.

The NET (News - Alert) 911 Improvement Act of 2008 required the preparation of a National Plan for migrating to an IP-enabled emergency network. The E-911 Implementation Coordination Office was created to meet requirements of the ENHANCE 911 Act of 2004 and was responsible for the plan.

The ICO was terminated in September when legislation was introduced that would create an improved ICO to focus on advancing the fundamental policy goal of creating an all-IP emergency communications network. This new organizations will be established for five years under the direction of the NTIA.

Recommendations for advancing NG9-1-1 were included by the FCC as part of the National Broadband Plan presented to Congress on March 16, 2010. The organization suggested that it take an expanded role in assuring NG9-1-1 services meet future consumer expectations for broadband-based communications.

With these recommendations now in place, Congress will evaluate whether or not additional actions should be taken to support a cohesive policy for transitioning to NG9-1-1. Those vendors who are operating in this space will play a large part of this transition and developing innovative technologies and demonstrating their value to the FCC's plan will be vital to moving this initiative along.

In other E911 news, experts say new advances in communication technologies have forced the world of emergency communications to face the inadequacies of a system built on 30-year old analog telephony technology.

According experts such as Bill Mertka, vice president of product management for Chicago-based E911 solutions provider RedSky Technologies, this had led to a "frenzy of standards, regulatory, and technology development activity directed at the development of so-called Next Generation 9-1-1 systems."

Congress and the FCC appear to be trying to address the issue with innovative solutions. Only time will tell if their direction is the right one.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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