When I was involved in the leadership at the National Emergency Number Association, at that time wireless 911 was the latest and greatest thing. We had several challenges there because we had to become involved with a whole different group of providers. Before wireless, we only needed to work with the basic RBOCs and a few other systems. It seemed like a finite number, and we knew who the players were. You had one phone company per PSAP and that was somewhat manageable, and you worked on standards and loved the girl next door and enjoyed mom's apple pie. Life was good.

Then wireless came along and it was a whole different ball game. It was an unregulated industry. At least with wireline, we knew how to play the game. But wireless was completely different and no one in any state could regulate them. The only regulation was from the FCC, and going to the FCC was not that simple. On top of that, there were a million of those suckers. By the time you figured out all the players, someone was buying someone else or two companies were merging. And these were totally different people focused on making money. 911 was just something the FCC made them do. So for us in the 911 industry, trying to interface with folks in the wireless industry was a huge undertaking.

NENA, through the efforts of Nextel, started what was called the SWAT initiative — Strategic Wireline/Wireless Action Team — bringing all of the players together. We were put in a big room and people shoved pizzas under the door. We didn't come out until we had answers. We started talking through all of these issues. We started to get some real understanding of the industries.

I'm excited about the future of IP coming into the 911 centers. We've operated like we have for so long because we thought it was the way it was supposed to be. There are a million and one reasons why you'd move to IP. During Hurricane Katrina, 911 centers were completely wiped out. With IP-based technology you don't need to send more people into areas where they don't have hotels and food. We can still dispatch remotely using IP platforms. When I start talking to people about that, they look at me like I'm a heretic. But we do it all the time. Look at the air traffic control system. They don't just talk to planes in their cities. We're talking about states and regions.
as told to Lynnette Luna

Richard Taylor is the executive director of information technology services for the North Carolina Wireless 911 Board.