Last week, the Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to advance the national transition to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911). The proposed regulations require wireless providers to deliver 911 calls and texts in a digital format if requested by 9-1-1 authorities.
People needing emergency assistance each year make more than 200 million calls to 9-1-1 in the United States. The calls travel on dedicated 9-1-1 networks to reach a 9-1-1 specialist who can dispatch aid.
State and local 9-1-1 authorities are now transitioning to NG911 by replacing legacy circuit-switched 9-1-1 networks with Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks and applications that will support new 9-1-1 capabilities, including text, video, and data, as well as improved interoperability and system resilience.
Completing the NG911 transition also requires originating service providers — the 9-1-1 callers’ phone companies—to format 9-1-1 calls to be compatible with NG911 and deliver the calls to new destination points on IP networks established by 9-1-1 authorities.
As state and local 9-1-1 authorities have begun to invest in NG911, some have reported that originating service providers are refusing to connect to these destination points or are otherwise delaying the transition process, which threatens to impose additional costs and delays on 9-1-1 authorities. (Note: this has not been an issue in Maryland.)
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Commission to Advance NG911 across Maryland, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative, was established to update state laws and the 9-1-1 financing system to provide the flexibility and resources needed to deploy a statewide NG911 system. In 2019, the General Assembly passed landmark legislation to update state laws and the 9-1-1 financing system to provide the flexibility and resources needed to deploy a statewide NG911 system.
The Commission, chaired by Senator Cheryl Kagan, included 9-1-1 directors, technology and telecommunications industry representatives, cybersecurity professionals, a bipartisan group of legislators, and other stakeholders to assure a smooth and equitable transition to NG911. As a result of the Commission’s work, Maryland passed several laws to bolster the framework and resources to guide a successful statewide transition to NG911, enhancing public safety communications in Maryland and our local communities.
MACo also successfully supported legislation to designate the Maryland Department of Emergency Management (formerly the Maryland Emergency Management Agency) as a Cabinet-level entity and transfer the 9-1-1 Board from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to the Maryland Department of Emergency Management (MDEM), as a fully autonomous agency.
Last December, the FCC proposed to require wireless providers to deliver 911 calls and texts in IP format upon the request of NG911-capable 9-1-1 authorities. In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted last week, the Commission is proposing similar requirements for the delivery of 9-1-1 calls by wireline, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and Internet-based Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) providers, as well as addressing the allocation of costs for transmitting all IP-based 9-1-1 calls.