Former FCC chairs urge Congress to fund next-generation 911

Nine former chairs of the Federal Communications Commission signed a letter pushing Congress to fund next-generation 911.
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Nine former chairs of the Federal Communications Commission issued a letter on Wednesday to the U.S. House and Senate leaders, urging Congress to make the nationwide transition to next-generation 911 a “top priority.”

Experts say the new, internet-based system is a much-needed replacement to the aging, telephone-based emergency communications infrastructure that’s been used across the U.S. for decades.

“Legacy 9-1-1 does not reflect the ways that most citizens communicate today,” the letter states. “Moreover, it is unable to use and share data, like caller location, that would enable more effective emergency response, better protect first responders, and ultimately save lives. We urge you to take action to update 9-1-1 and promote public safety.”

The letter penned by former FCC officials follows similar correspondence sent to Congress in January by a coalition of nine national organizations — including the National Emergency Number Association, the National Association of State 911 Administrators and the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies — that called on federal legislators to pass HR 3565, a bill that would provide state and local governments $14.8 billion to upgrade their 911 systems. 


“States, tribal communities, and local 9-1-1 authorities do not have the estimated $15 billion needed to fully implement NG9-1-1” the former FCC officials wrote. “In fact, they face a double-bind in this regard as they must spend scarce funds maintaining legacy 9-1-1 systems until NG9-1-1 is fully deployed and operational.”

The former FCC chairs also suggested several sources of funding that they claim would not impact the federal budget, including federal wireless spectrum auctions and repurposing appropriated but unspent COVID-era funding.

Even without federal support, 38 states have already adopted a statewide NG911 plan, according to a 2021 report from the National 911 Program and the National Association of State 911 Administrators.

Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association, told StateScoop last month that the timeline for deploying NG911 varies from a few years to more than a decade, depending on how prepared states are to receive equipment, software and training. He said the extended timeline is why Congress must approve funding as soon as possible.

“Congress should come together now and help speed the modernization of this essential public service,” Fontes wrote in a statement supporting the letter.

Sophia Fox-Sowell

Written by Sophia Fox-Sowell

Sophia Fox-Sowell reports on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and government regulation for StateScoop. She was previously a multimedia producer for CNET, where her coverage focused on private sector innovation in food production, climate change and space through podcasts and video content. She earned her bachelor’s in anthropology at Wagner College and master’s in media innovation from Northeastern University.

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