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December 05, 2011

911 Services and the Next Generation 911 Advancement Act

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

If the bipartisan support for Next Generation 911 holds out, 911 services could get a $250 million boost over the next five years. Given the changes in consumer behavior to communicate via mobile devices, changes must be made to the current system to ensure first responders have the information they need.

The amendment to the Next Generation Advancement Act would reauthorize the grant to upgrade 911 services including text messaging, photo, and video technology to 911 centers across the nation, according to this Campaign r20 report.

These upgrades are of particular interest to the growing number of aging Americans (Baby Boomers), and those with hearing or speech issues. The technology would also allow 911 services centers to pinpoint where the sender of these text messages is located.

On the technical side of the amendment, in reference to autodialing, the FCC (News - Alert) will create a Do Not Call registry for the public safety answering point. Multi-line telephone systems (MLTS), which can be a headache when routing emergency personnel on emergency calls, will require some tweaking.

To do so, the FCC will be required to examine the feasibility of MLTS manufacturers’ ability to add location capabilities to their systems. The feasibility report is due no later than 270 days after the enactment date of the Act.

All federal immunity and liability exposure issues that are currently in place with the voice-centric 911 services systems in the U.S. will remain in place for the upgraded text, photo, video, and data services that will be implemented with the new systems.

The amendment calls for a public educational effort on current and emerging 911 services system capabilities. Furthermore, federal policies and funding will allow the transition from voice-centric 911 services to an Internet Protocol-based system. This is an effort to keep up with technology, which is rapidly changing.

The amendment will help assure that all 911 services emergency response organizations have the ability to provide high-speed broadband networks, interconnected IP backbones, and innovative services and applications.

Federal officials will also be responsible for establishing a program to coordinate communication between federal, state, and local emergency communication systems, personnel, and public safety coordinators. This chain of communication will also involve the telecommunications carriers, equipment manufacturers, and the vendors involved in future upgraded 911 services installations.

Federal officials will also be responsible for developing a management plan for the grant program, which if passed by Congress, will require states to certify that 911 fees collected from consumers aren’t misappropriated. Failure to do so will hold up federal funding for that state.

A plan for the upgrade to the Next Generation Advancement Act is scheduled to be delivered the committees on commerce, science, and transportation and appropriations of the senate within 90 days of the amendment’s enactment.

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

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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