At the 2011 Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference in Philadelphia yesterday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his five-step action plan to chart the transition to Next Generation 911 (NG911) services.
Under the plan, the FCC will: 1) Develop automatic location accuracy mechanisms for NG-911; 2) Facilitate the completion and implementation of NG911 technical standards for the hardware and software that carriers and public safety answering points (PSAPs) use to communicate NG911 information; 3) Work with state 911 authorities, other federal agencies and other governing entities to provide technical expertise and develop a coordinated approach to NG911 governance; 4) Develop an NG911 Funding Model focused on the cost-effectiveness of the NG911 network infrastructure linking PSAPs and carriers; and 5) Enable consumers to send text, photos and videos to PSAPs.
Just how is all of this going to get done? Next month, the FCC is expected to launch a rulemaking to consider how to accelerate NG911 adoption to help answer questions about how to enable text, photo and video transmission to 911, including how to ensure adequate broadband infrastructure to deliver the bandwidth PSAPs will need to provide NG911.
As part of the proceeding, the FCC will examine interim solutions for ensuring that carriers and service providers support transmission of text-to-911.
"It's hard to imagine that airlines can send text messages if your flight is delayed, but you can't send a text message to 911 in an emergency," Genachowski said in a press release. "The unfortunate truth is that the capability of our emergency response communications has not kept pace with commercial innovation – has not kept pace with what ordinary people now do every day with communications devices. The shift to NG911 can't be about if, but about when and how."
The FCC defines NG911 as supporting seamless, end-to-end IP-based communication of emergency-related voice, text, data, photos and video between the public and public safety answering points. NG911 systems will continue to support the legacy 911 system on a transitional basis for as long as is necessary, the agency says.