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Podcast: Discussing Kari's Law with Mark Fletcher - Part 2

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Guy
Good day, all - it's Guy here. Welcome to part two of a two-part edition of Conversations Between Peers in the Communications Industry.

I am very pleased again to introduce my friend Mark Fletcher. Reminding you Mark is Avaya's Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions. He is also the highly successful originator and driving force behind the Avaya Podcast Network.

In the first part of our interview we talked about how enterprise organizations today are using communications technologies when people experience an emergency. We also talked about Kari's Law. Mark, let's continue our conversation:

I saw a tweet from you recently when you were on the 8th floor of the FCC building waiting to meet with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's staff to discuss Kari's Law. What was that experience like and what does it mean for the future of Kari's Law?

Mark
The eighth floor at the FCC - that's the commissioner's floor. That's the only thing that's up there, and I've been up there twice. Down at the FCC, a lot of times downstairs in the commission meeting room, I know a lot of different people that I've met across the years working on the different committees, but I've been on the eighth floor twice. I've got to tell you the first thing that's surreal is when you check in down at security, it's "Okay Mr Fletcher, you're cleared to the eighth floor." When you hear that you're like, "Oh my god, I'm going to the eighth floor." Then when you get off the elevator, it's this surreal glow and feeling that oh my God, I'm on the eighth floor. This is where stuff really, really happens.

I was up there the other day to meet with Brendan Carr who is part of Commissioner Ajit Pai's staff. The commissioner was out of the building at an event that day, but I was there for a workshop that was being held for emergency communications for people with disabilities, and Brendan Carr wanted to meet with me briefly just to give me a quick update on what they're doing at the FCC.

Again we went over the numbers with what people were doing, we talked about Marriott Corporation getting on board, making it a brand standard, not only for the Marriott corporate owned hotels, but now if you're a franchise and you've got the name Marriott on your building, you have to be compliant. You have to be able to direct dial 9-1-1. They're the first hotel chain to stand up and say, "This is our corporate brand standard. I don't care that you're just a franchise."

That's important because when people go out and stay at a hotel, they think that hotel is owned by the name on the outside. I'm not sure why it's like that with hotels, you don't think that with a gas station. You know the local Mobile station or the Exxon or the BP, you know that's the local guy that owns the franchise, but people don't look at that with hotels. They see a Marriott building, they assume Marriott owns the building when in fact that's only true in 20% of the cases. We talked about that, we talked about different programs that we can come up with to where legislation's going to take a long time. We need to fix the problem now. We talked about different things that we can do right now that will get the problem fixed. You know what? If we can get this done, if this can become a non-issue then we don't need legislation. You only need legislation when you can't get somebody to implement something that needs to be implemented.

Laws exist for when ethics fail. We talked about the American Hotel and Lodging Association and how there's been a big turnaround by that group to say "No, this is something that we can address and yes, we should have done this ten years ago and we didn't understand what the real problem was and didn't understand the cost components to it."

But now that they see what's basically behind Kari's Law and they see that this is not a cost issue, this is not a technology issue, it's just something that's got to be done, yeah no problem, we'll get this done. That's through public awareness. A lot of good has come out of it. We really just caught up on what's happening there. That was the second time I was up on "the eighth floor." The first was almost a year ago, earlier this year, back on January 10th when I brought this up and I met with Commissioner Pai and his entire staff at that time; that's when we had sat down for 45 minutes talking about this problem, which to me was just amazing because you don't normally get that kind of air time.

You usually get their staff - that's okay because that's where the work is done in the trenches - but I knew that when I had 45 minutes with the commissioner and his whole staff, that we were going to get something done and it was going to be in pretty short order. And here we are almost a year later and we've got a lot of progress that's been made over the past year.

Guy
What great story. You must have been thrilled. It's well deserved recognition for such a job well done.

Give us some examples of organizations that have embraced Kari's Law and what they've done to correct the problem.

Mark
Well, you're absolutely right. Hank is the one who really should be credited with raising the awareness. I'm just somebody that's out there that helps him get the message out there. It's his message, and he's the one that tells the story the best. What we know is that raising awareness can correct this problem. As a matter of fact, one of the first statements Commissioner Pai issued was that awareness was solving the problem. I mean let's face it, nobody wants to do this on purpose.

When they find out that the features available on the PBX [private branch exchange], regardless of who's PBX you own, for the most part the feature doesn't cost anything. It's usually included in most systems. When I've gone out to talk to distributors and said, "Hey, will you turn this on for free for your customers?" They're like "Well, yeah." They have a maintenance contract. If you can't dial 9-1-1 from your system, your system's broken. You have a maintenance contract, we'll come fix your system.

I had TelServe in Connecticut and DJJ Industries on Long Island and CSDNet on Long Island. All commit to going out and saying, "Yeah, we'll turn this on for no charge. Not a problem." It was just at a distributor event just outside of Philadelphia. When I told this story to the folks over at CSG, the CEO of the company came to me and said "Fletch, what can we do about this?" What we're doing is we're going back on the 17th.

We're going to have a 9-1-1 Awareness Day and we're going to put together a program for all of their customers to go out and find out if 9-1-1 is programmed correctly. If it's not, they're going to program it correctly. They're going to do that at no charge. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. When we look at awareness, we know that people are fixing the problem if they know about the problem. We know people have fixed the problem. Now, just doing the simple math that's got to tell you that somewhere we probably have saved or will save someone's life because of that.

Guy
It is impossible to know how many lives will be saved and how many situations will be managed more effectively because of the work of Hank Hunt and your successful efforts to publicize the need for change. You are truly both heroes. For those who wish to join the efforts, where can they find more information on Kari's Law?

Mark
That's a great question. I really appreciate you bringing that up. The main landing page that we helped Hank get set up is No9needed.com. That's going to be a landing page for Kari's Law initiatives where you'll be able to jump off and get to just about anything that's out there. Those are the places to watch to where you can find out how to get involved.

Guy
I want you to know how much I respect you as a professional and honor our friendship. I hope that others in the communications industry understand how important the work that you do is.

Just as Kari's Law is saving lives, so too have the many innovations that you have been responsible for bringing to market that have improved the ways in which enterprise organizations manage emergency communications. You've been honored by organizations including Next Gen 9-1-1 Institute's Industry/Technology Professional Private Sector Award in 2013, but that only begins to acknowledge the debt the communications industry owes to your leadership and example.

Mark
Thanks very much, Guy. I really do appreciate that. It's very rare that you can grab ahold of something in your work career and really make it your passion. This is a problem that we can easily fix. This is an issue that we can help get out there. It's a real privilege to be able to do that, make some change, explain what's going on, have other people see your vision, your strategy and then jump on board and go, "Yeah, I can fix that."

Every single day that I get that, I have to sit back and say, "There's another one that understands. There's another one that's going to go out and carry this message forward. There's another one that's going to help make this a non-issue." That's a great feeling to be able to do that.

Guy
Fletch, it's been an honor and privilege to have you on the podcast

Mark
Thanks very much Guy. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here on your program. Congratulations on all the success you've had with No Jitter. It's hard to think that 5, 6 years ago we were fierce competitors, but still working hand in hand on a common good cause. Then we were together for quite some time at the same company working towards to same good cause. Now you've expanded your career out into the No Jitter universe, but we're still working on the same great cause. And, the cool part about it is I got to do this from Newcastle, England through the magic of the Internet. I'm going to run for a spot of tea. Thanks very much for having me on the program today. It's really been an honor.

Guy
Dear audience, thank you for your time. We've been speaking today with Mark Fletcher Avaya's Chief Architect for Worldwide Public Safety Solutions and the driving force behind the Avaya Podcast Network. We've talked about Kari's Law and how important it is for enterprise organizations to understand what happens and to implement the tools correctly for the eventuality when people use the enterprises communications technologies during an emergency.

You've been listening to Conversations Between Peers in the Communications Industry on NoJitter. This is your host Guy Clinch wishing you all the best in your productive day.

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