NENA president supports 911 modernization legislation

Jason Barbour, Emergency Number Professional, President of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and Johnston County, N.C. 911 Director, told the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet of the Committee on Energy and Commerce that “improving 911 service for all Americans in the light of rapidly changing technology and increasing consumer demands for new services should be a top priority for Congress.”

In a statement prepared for delivery on behalf of NENA and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International (APCO), Barbour said, “Our nation’s 911 system is a vital public safety and homeland security asset. Everyday 911 callers seek critical emergency assistance and are the eyes and ears helping others during emergencies in local communities and assisting with our nation’s homeland security. Modern communication capabilities offer an opportunity to improve the system as we know it, but they also offer challenges. The 911 community must embrace and react to change quickly, to better serve the American public, industry, and the mobile consumer in all emergencies. We need help from Congress to do so.”

Barbour told the Subcommittee NENA’s and APCO’s support the goals of the 911 Modernization and Public Safety Act of 2007 because (1) it strengthens the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) E911 Order by codifying the obligation of all Internet Protocol (IP)- enabled voice service providers to provide E911 in accordance with FCC regulations and (2) provides needed tools to assist in the completion of E911 deployment for VoIP service in all parts of the United States and (3) addresses the issue of Next Generation (NG) 911 service.

Barbour concluded, “Each of these items will assist with current VoIP E911 implementation and support the migration from today’s 911 system to a modern IP-based Next Generation 911 system to enable the public to access 911 from “anywhere, anytime and from any device.”

Specifically, HR 3403 provides several key elements to enable nationwide VoIP
E911 deployment including the following:

  • Liability parity for Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP), service providers and their third party vendors equivalent to existing liability protections already in place for wireline and wireless service. Liability protections are extended to VoIP and any other technologies obligated by the FCC to provide 911 in the future, and any services voluntarily providing 911 calls and information to PSAPs that are approved by state and local 911 authorities;

  • Confirmation of state and local authority to impose and collect 911 fees from IP-enabled voice service providers;

  • Placing a requirement on the National 911 Implementation and Coordination Office (ICO) to produce a report to Congress on the migration to an IP-enabled emergency network; and

  • Directing the FCC to initiate a proceeding to require owners of the Enhanced 911 (E911) infrastructure to provide access to VoIP providers who require such access to provide E911 service.

NENA promotes implementation and awareness of 911 as North America’s universal emergency number. NENA is the leading professional non-profit organization dedicated solely to 911 emergency communications issues. NENA serves its nearly 7,000 members in 48 chapters across the U.S., Canada and Mexico through policy advocacy, establishment of technical and operational standards, certification programs and a broad spectrum of educational offerings. Find out more at www.nena.org.

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