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States Are Stealing Funds From 9-1-1 Emergency Services - Now They'll Be Punished

Date: 2018-02-12
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From The Hill  ©2018 Capitol Hill Publishing Corp.,

Next week, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first 9-1-1 telephone call. That simple act helped revolutionize emergency communications. From it, we eventually grew a nationwide emergency calling system, which has helped make our communities both safer and stronger, saving countless lives in the process.

Today, no matter who or where you are, when critical life moments occur, Americans can dial 9-1-1 and know that help is on the way.

With the digital age, many of our nation’s 9-1-1 systems require upgrades. More calls now come in from wireless phones and pinpointing the location of those in danger requires updated technology and training for public safety personnel. Moreover, coming down the road are new capabilities, such as integrated pictures and multimedia, that could enhance emergency calling.

Preparing for this future takes effort — and prudent funding. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to get there without first halting 9-1-1 fee diversion.

On our individual phone bills a line item is typically included for 9-1-1 service. It’s a relatively small fee that states and localities charge to support emergency calling services. But too many states are stealing these funds and using them for other purposes, like filling budget gaps, purchasing vehicles, or worse.

This is deceptive. After all, consumers are paying to support 9-1-1 calling but a portion of the fees are being diverted elsewhere. According to a recent report released by our agency, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), five states and territories suctioned almost $130 million from their 9-1-1 systems and another seven didn’t even bother to respond to our inquiry to examine their diversion practices. None of this is acceptable.

Moreover, the results of 9-1-1 fee diversion can be tragic. It can lead to understaffed calling centers, longer wait times in an emergency, and sluggish dispatch for public safety personnel. It also will slow the ability of 9-1-1 call centers to update their systems to support digital age technologies.

It’s time for 9-1-1 fee diversion to stop.

Michael O’Rielly is a commissioner for Federal Communications Commission, serving since January 2015.
Jessica Rosenworcel is a commissioner to the Federal Communications Commission serving most recently since August 2017.

The preceding is a partial clip from this article; read the full story at The Hill

 

 

 

- People, Places & Things/9-1-1magazine.com (via The Hill, 2/9/18)

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