Impacts of NG911
States, the FCC, and enterprises will all have a role to play as 911 is modernized.
The next generation of 911 call support will have impacts on many organizations--enterprises, SMBs, governments, educational institutions, effectively anyone with a wired or wireless device that can be used to call 911. The impacts will cost money, change regulations, produce new liabilities, and will take time to implement, while the system continues to handle traditional landline 911 calls. The stimulus for Next Generation 911 (NG911) was discussed in the previous blog "NG911; On the Horizon."
The Enterprise Needs to Keep Up
The enterprise and SMB will have a role in next-gen 911 calls. The role will depend on the type of calling device, media used (voice, video, text), and its location. The enterprise/SMB will have to be able to process text and video emergency calls as well.
* Hard-wired IP and softphones--These will most likely be connected over a LAN. When the geographic area of the LAN is modest in size, about 7,000 square feet, then the location of the network itself may be adequate to locate the source of the call for emergency purposes. If the LAN covers a larger area, then some form of location information within the LAN must be more precise. The best location information would be to locate the caller by floor and cubicle number.
IP phones and softphones may be located in remote buildings or sites. In this case, not only does the enterprise have to know the location of the caller, it has to direct the call to Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) nearest that remote location--which could be in another state from the enterprise's main network. And whether the call is remote or local, there may also need to for legacy-to-IP gateways as well.
These wired calling devices will not change location frequently. However, the location technology must have some form of knowledge that the device is still in the registered location. If it is moved, then the location information should be updated within seconds. Providing inaccurate location information can delay the emergency response to the point where it is too late. This has happened in the past and stimulated new regulations in some states.
* A number of wireless devices such as cell phones, tablets, and even cars, trucks and buses will have the ability to call 911 over mobile networks. In these cases, the enterprise can expect the cellular operator will provide the location information to the local PSAP.
* When the calling device is connected to a Wi-Fi network on the enterprise/SMB premises, then the location responsibility is with the organization that implements the Wi-Fi network. Since the location can change in real time, the location information must be updated within seconds. If the Wi-Fi network is in a public location like an airport, restaurant, coffee shop, library, public building, community Wi-Fi, or other third party location, then the enterprise has to rely on these organizations to handle the 911 calls, or it has to use a GPS location and knowledge of the closest PSAP to forward the call.
The FCC's Role
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not mandate E911 regulations. However, the FCC will have considerable influence on retiring the public switched telephone network (PSTN). At present, the PSTN is the foundation network for 911 and E911. The FCC is tasked with reporting on states' collection and usage of 911 funds, including information regarding the diversion of 911 funds from their intended purposes. This latter problem occurred when wireless location funding was redirected to janitorial maintenance in one state.
The FCC is wrestling with pressure from the carriers, especially AT&T, to retire the PSTN. When the FCC determines how this will be implemented, the commission must provide for IP-based 911 networks. The FCC became concerned with the response to the storm Sandy and held an "FCC Field Hearing on Superstorm Sandy" in New York City on February 5, at which 911 and E911 were discussed, covering what could be done in the future during such disasters.
State Regulations Will be Modified and Funding Will Change
Many areas of the country are already experiencing a reduction in 911 revenues. This is because consumers have stopped using landlines and use broadband Internet access services not covered under current State and local 911 laws, so no 911 fees are collected. States and local jurisdictions will have to create new funding models to support existing and future 911 investments and operations.
At this time, about 17 states have E911 regulations on their books. Red Sky Technologies has E911 regulation information available by state.
These regulations are not consistent nor do they include new and IP and wireless technologies, according to Matt Serra, Product Manager, Smart911, of Rave Mobile Safety, "Local and state jurisdictions will have to consider developing legislation that addresses regulation, legislation, and other policies to reflect modern communications and IP-enabled 911 system capabilities. The revised regulations have to be technology agnostic, otherwise they will have to be rewritten as technology changes. In some cases, the present regulations disallow some new technologies."
Congress Will Get into the Act
Congress may have to become involved in 911 and E911 deployment, which may be difficult with limited budgets. The PSAPs and network providers would like to have Congress pay the bill for NG911, which is not likely in the short term. Without government funding, the network providers need to add a tax on all forms of communications that can be used for 911 calls. The FCC may get involved as well, potentially by mandating that all PSAPs meet certain conditions to receive any funding--though most network providers can be expected to resist expanding the FCC's mission.
NG911 is coming, but resistance to allocating funds will slow its implementation. Even if the carriers implement portions of NG911, will the PSAPs be able to afford it? This will also affect where the early implementations will be deployed. It may a decade or more before the entire nation has NG911 service.