Achieving Next Generation 911 Goals

America’s 911 operations centers are on the front lines in times of problems, fielding emergency calls and dispatching assistance to those in need. It is important that 911 call centers – which are busy saving lives each day – have the support needed to successfully and efficiently navigate the technologies transitions underway, particularly the move to IP networks and Next Generation 911. Accomplished right, this should vastly improve emergency response. The Task Force on Ideal Public Safety Answering Point Architecture (TFOPA), an expert advisory panel to the FCC, is central to this hard work.

Since its inaugural meeting within January, the TFOPA – comprised of state and local public safety leaders, directors of public safety answering points (PSAPs), emergency functions managers, operating service providers, and technologies innovators – has set its sights on addressing how PSAPs can best integrate NG911 functionality into their operations. At a meeting last week, the TFOPA provided interim reports indicating good progress made by its working groups, focusing on cybersecurity, NG911 architectures, and allocation of sources. We are looking forward to the final reports along with a unified set of recommendations from the TFOPA later this year.

I am optimistic that the TFOPA’s work will further the objective – shared by Chairman Wheeler, his fellow Commissioners, and the state and local public safety partners – of timely NG911 implementation throughout the nation. But the problems are real. As public safety authorities are well aware, adopting new technology for public safety can be a double-edged sword; as state and private sector organisations leverage more advanced technologies, they also should maintain legacy communications capabilities during a transitional period as the larger commercial communications ecosystem migrates to IP technologies. Maintaining two infrastructures raises cost and the potential for life-threatening outages. The longer the transition requires, the more difficult this challenge turns into as the rest of the commercial communications environment moves on.

Striking the appropriate balance in between maintaining the old and implementing the newest in PSAP operations is no easy task. We recognize state and local authorities’ leadership in this area. To that particular end, the TFOPA is playing an important role by helping to facilitate development of better options for 911 decision makers – options that will reduce the amount of technical variation between PSAPs, facilitate the development of 911 platform capabilities that take full advantage of cloud-based and other advanced technologies, and help cost successfully address equipment and cyber specifications so that 911 workforce development along with other NG911 implementation challenges do not get put aside. The group is also tackling the tough job of identifying funding options to provide sustainable support.

Some states are leading the charge on this front side by coordinating the NG911 execution efforts of PSAPs within their jurisdictions, implementing programs that will improve PSAP efficiency and effectiveness, and even achieving across borders to coordinate with neighboring states. In other states, however , timely, efficient NG911 implementation is definitely hindered by restrictions on state 911 administrators’ power to implement new policies and by governance mechanisms that discourage rather than incentivize coordinated action by individual PSAPs. And of course, just about all states face challenges in the timely transition to and long-term sustainment of NG911, given limitations upon funding and the rapidly changing technical and communications landscape.

To meet these challenges, states and localities must have the tools – financial, operational, and technical – to realize NG911 capabilities in a manner that minimizes cost and danger. For example , investing in a well-executed and timely NG911 transition may reduce the duration and expense of running seite an seite legacy and NG911 architectures – not to mention the risk of 911 outages caused by multiple interdependent systems.

These are complex problems, but a productive, collaborative dialogue is underway. As Chairman Wheeler has emphasized, the FCC has no higher priority than public safety communications – and we are steadfastly committed to working in partnership with other Federal, state, and local public safety officials as we collectively move to take the nation’s 911 infrastructure into the modern world.


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