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Moving Forward on Next Generation 911

December 21st, 2010 by Jamie Barnett - Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau

Today, the Commission adopted a Notice of Inquiry which initiates a comprehensive proceeding to address how Next Generation 911 (NG911) can enable the public to obtain emergency assistance by means of advanced communications technologies beyond traditional voice-centric devices.  This represents the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s next step in implementing the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan.

In the telecommunications industry overall, competitive forces and technological innovation have ushered in an era of advanced Internet-Protocol (IP)-based devices and applications that have vastly enhanced the ability of the public to communicate and send and receive information.  Unfortunately, our legacy circuit-switched 911 system has been unable to accommodate the capabilities embedded in many of these advanced technologies, such as the ability to transmit and receive photos, text messages, and video.  However, we have begun a transition to NG911, a system which will bridge the gap between the current 911 system and the evolving technological environment.
   
This November, I had the chance to visit Arlington, Virginia’s state of the art 911 center, which is at the forefront of the move toward NG911.  With 70% of our nation’s 911 calls originating from mobile phones, the evolution of our 911 system to one which not only accepts, but welcomes, text and multimedia messages is crucial.  The advances in our NG911 system pave the way for first responders to attain maximum situational awareness of an emergency before stepping onto the scene.  Additionally, it allows consumers, who often rely on text and multimedia messaging, to feel comfortable in the fact that the 911 system is responsive to their unique needs in the new media environment. 

Furthermore, the switch to an IP-based system allows the 911 system to manage 911 calls dynamically.  Often, when a major disaster occurs, the 911 system becomes congested due to surges in emergency calls to the local answering point, resulting in dropped and blocked calls.  The NG911 system, by dynamically managing calls, will allow calls that are destined for particular answering points to be routed in an efficient and effective manner, preventing the congestion that often accompanies major emergencies.

Accordingly, today’s NOI seeks to gain a better understanding of how the gap between the capabilities of modern networks and devices and today’s 911 system can be bridged and on how to further the transition to IP-based communications capabilities for emergency communications and NG911.This NOI will move us closer to forming a new regulatory framework for NG911 that adapts to evolving public expectations in terms of the communications platforms the public would rely upon to request emergency services and ensures that our nation’s 911 system is at its most effective in the future.  The Bureau remains committed to ensuring that our nation’s 911 system serves the American people in the best possible manner.  This NOI furthers the process begun in the National Broadband Plan of ensuring that the transition to NG911 is effective and efficient and adapts to the changing communications environment.

2 Responses to “Moving Forward on Next Generation 911”

  1. John E. Luke says:

    The integrated 911 emergency system needs to authenticate with the nationwide emergency transmission frequencies for nationwide disaster and emergency alert signalling by competent authorities, it needs to keep the current 911 system intact and add value to how that operates, it needs to address security so that 911 information may remain confidential when callers want to remain anonymous or for other legal purposes, and the 911 system needs to integrate with all forms of online communication from free text messaging to and from all phone carriers and cell phone lines to making http ftp udp and all forms of internet access capabilities a part of its services. Residents, companies and government agencies need simple measures to be able to update their e-911 information which is displayed when 911 calls are received and expanded personal information to include medical conditions, current medications, doctor's office contact information and notes, personal comments from the 911 caller and 911 historical data per person plus corresponding reporting systems need to be established for appropriate use at trial and for other statistical information gathering purposes.

  2. Nathan says:

    I expect that some form of E911 application protocol will have to be developed to facilitate some of these ideas. Traditional E911 calls are established by voice, but if we want to implement other forms of media to assist a dispatch center in understanding a situation, how does this media get associated with that call from the originating mobile device? The mobile device has no knowledge of what dispatch center its been routed to through the voice system, and therefore has no means by which to share this media. I greatly anticipate questions like these being addressed as the needs of NG911 are addressed.

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