The Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) today announced the association’s recently developed policy position on Funding Principles to Support the Continued Evolution of 911 Services and Systems.
Across the nation, in times of intense personal crisis and community-wide disasters, the first access point for those seeking all classes of emergency response is 911. The public safety communications centers that receive these calls are the first and single point of contact for persons seeking immediate relief during an emergency. Communications teams then expertly dispatch emergency service professionals and equipment to render life-saving assistance to citizens, residents and visitors across America. We rely on this process and system to assure the safety of the public every day.
911 services and systems are critical to promoting public safety and to enabling first responders and homeland security professionals to effectively respond to requests for help. Originally developed to facilitate only voice calls to emergency personnel via traditional landline telephone networks, 911 services and systems have evolved to accommodate the ever-changing communications preferences and safety needs of American consumers (e.g., by enabling 911 access via commercial wireless and Internet Protocol (IP) telephony networks). These 911 services and systems must continue to evolve to keep pace with technological changes occurring in the communications marketplace, including a transition from existing narrowband, circuit-switched, TDM technologies to Next Generation 911 (NextGen 911) IP technologies. NextGen 911 services and systems will yield significant benefits including improved resiliency, support for non-voice emergency communications (e.g., text-to-911), greater incident awareness through multi-agency interoperability, and the choice of increased efficiency through regionalization and resource sharing.
Our nation’s public safety telecommunications professionals make technology investment decisions every day. The funding resources available to them, traditional and non-traditional, sit as a guide for these decisions as they look to improve their systems and ensure effective deployment of emergency services. As each of us knows all too well, absent the requisite resources, no emergency communications agency, center, program, or plan can reach its potential and be poised for the present, and indeed the future.
iCERT’s core mission of “assuring adequate funding for emergency calling and communication” naturally includes contributions to the dialogue concerning the challenge of funding NextGen 911 deployments. Essentially, this challenge is characterized by two divergent forces: (1) the significant investments necessary to support NextGen 911 deployment across the country; and (2) the growing realization that current funding methodologies – rooted in the legacy era – may be insufficient and/or unworkable in the future. iCERT believes that future funding mechanisms for 911 must be expanded to include innovative approaches and efficiencies that are sustainable over the longer term. As policymakers evaluate such new approaches, iCERT recommends that consideration be given to the following principles:
1. 911 is an essential government service, and it must provide effective access to emergency services for all citizens, residents and visitors, even as technologies and communications services evolve. As an essential government service, 911 funding should be a high priority for local, state, and federal governments.
2. Policymakers at the state and local level should consider implementation of 911 funding methodologies that: (a) increase the level and diversity of financial support for 911/NextGen 911 programs sufficient to meet the demand spelled out in Principle #1 above; (b) ensure that support mechanisms are designed to be competitively neutral in all respects; and (c) ensure 911 fund administration (i.e., assessment, collection and distribution) is undertaken in the most economically efficient manner possible and employs best practices for accountability and transparency.
3. Federal policy makers should consider additional federal grant programs such as those available through the Spectrum Act. 
4. iCERT recognizes the authority and responsibility that States have to manage 911 funds in accordance with applicable state laws. In order to ensure the sufficiency of 911 funding, including for NG911 implementation it is important that funds not be diverted for purposes not related to 911. Specifically, iCERT believes that 911 funds should only be used to support reasonable costs that are legitimately attributable to the planning, implementation, operation, administration, maintenance, training and coordination related to 911, E911, and NextGen 911 services and systems. This would include hardware, software and infrastructure associated with: (1) facilitating consumer access to 911 services, (2) the development and operation of the Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet), (3) call and dispatch management applications and processes, and (4) network components that are shared with other communications systems or government services (e.g., backhaul) so long as there is a clear allocation of payment responsibility among users.
5. Surcharges imposed on communications services to help fund 911 services, systems, and programs should be imposed at a uniform statewide rate with efficient, centralized administration, applied on a technologically and competitively neutral basis, and imposed on end-users and not on originating service providers.
iCERT’s policy position statements on this and other matters can be found at: