This past week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a notice of inquiry (NOI), "seeking public comment on how Next Generation 911 (NG911) can enable the public to obtain emergency assistance by means of advanced communications technologies beyond traditional voice-centric devices." In plain English, the FCC is seeking comments on how to improve the general public's ability to send text, picture and video messages to 9-1-1, while narrowing the gap of communication devices used by the general public and improving the ability of public safety answering points (PSAPs) to receive information. The FCC notes that 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls are now made from mobile devices, yet most PSAPs are not equipped to receive any text or video communications. The research generated by the NOI will go a long way in terms of shaping strategies to align the capabilities of PSAPs with the public's growing technological sophistication.
The FCC is seeking comment on the following issues, including, but not limited to:
• The technical feasibility and limitations of text messaging video streaming and photos
• Consumer privacy issues, particularly related to the sharing of personal electronic medical data
• Development of technical and policy standards
• Consumer education and awareness
• Intergovernmental coordination and coordination within the public safety community
Comments may be filed using:
• The FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS)
• The Federal Government's eRulemaking Portal
• Paper copies
The NOI sets the tone for 2011 to be a year of real progress for NG911 efforts. In 2010, I traveled to various state-level National Emergency Number Association conferences, from my home state of Virginia to Arizona, and the one thing I noted at all of these conferences was the dedication of 911 professionals doing everything they can to help their fellow citizens. It is great to see the federal government match this commitment by taking steps to improve to the nation's network of 911 systems. Given the cost of implementing NG911, and the financial hardships facing local governments, this process will by no means be easy, but it is absolutely necessary. GovWin is tracking NG911 opportunities across the country, including projects in Massachusetts (GovWin Opp ID 58728), California (GovWin Opp ID 12852) and Illinois (GovWin Opp ID 64769) just to name a few.
For more information on public safety communications in general, take a look at GovWin's Public Safety Interoperable Communications report. For more information on funding for 911 systems, I recommend GovWin's Governors' Budget: Public Safety Spending report and our Congressional Public Safety Funding Requests report. All of which can be found in GovWin's Research Library