FCC officials are seeking as much input as possible from interested parties about the future regulatory framework for the 911 system, which is expected to migrate to a more adaptive IP architecture that reflects the rapidly evolving communications landscape, an agency attorney said today.

In a webinar conducted by NENA, various aspects of the FCC’s recent notice of inquiry were outlined by Patrick Donovan, an attorney for the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau. Although the notice — the first step in a potential rulemaking — has not been published in the Federal Register yet, comments in the proceeding are expected to be due in late February, with reply comments being submitted sometime in March, he said.

Donovan noted that the notice seeks comments on a wide range of issues, from technical matters such as network architecture to regulatory matters regarding the jurisdiction and appropriate roles of the FCC and state governments on next-generation 911 systems.

With next-generation 911, emergency callers would be able to inform public-safety answering points (PSAPs) would be able to provide first-responder agencies with information by means other than traditional voice calls — text, photos and video also could be transmitted to PSAPs over a next-gen 911 architecture. While traditional voice carriers are accustomed to meeting the location-accuracy standards and other requirements that public safety needs, many industry experts believe such an environment could prove challenging for other communications providers.

“We recognize that, to convey location information in a next-generation 911 environment will require actors and participants that aren’t traditionally involved in 911 services to possibly be involved,” Donovan said, noting Internet service providers as an example of a potential new player in the next-gen 911 system.

One aspect not addressed in the FCC’s notice of inquiry is funding, Donovan said. In fact, FCC officials believe funding is critical to the successful deployment and operation of next-gen 911 systems, but the agency is waiting for a Department of Transportation report — scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011 — estimating the cost of next-gen 911 systems before addressing the funding issue in a proceeding, he said.