Accelerating the transition of public-safety answering points (PSAPs) from legacy 911 systems to a next-generation 911 (NG911) architecture is needed, but approaches to cybersecurity, operations and funding should be altered to ensure that emergency-calling services in the U.S. are as possible, an FCC task force states in a new report.

Released last Friday, the final report from the Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architectures (TFOPA) identifies areas in which PSAPs can benefit from shared services, but it does not make any recommendations regarding PSAP consolidation—a focal point of FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly when TFOPA was established.

“The consolidation of PSAPs does not necessarily translate into increased efficiencies or cost savings,” the TFOPA report states. “With that in mind, this report focuses more on which funding mechanisms offer the best approach going forward.”

Although TFOPA chose not to pursue the notion of physical PSAP consolidation, the task force does believe PSAPs can realize efficiencies and improve coordination between each other by sharing certain services. One primary example of this would be through the establishment of Emergency Communications Cybersecurity Centers (EC3s) that would deliver cybersecurity services to multiple PSAPs within a region.

This EC3 approach would be beneficial to PSAPs for both financial and operational reasons, according to the report.

“Rather than suggesting that each of the more than 6000 PSAPs in the United States be burdened with building and staffing such facilities, the TFOPA believes utilizing core EC3’s at various levels (Regions within a State, State level, or Regions comprised of multiple States and 911 Authorities) can offer public safety both economies of scale and operational efficiencies,” the report states. “In addition, a cooperative approach on the cybersecurity front brings a greater number of resources to bear for any incident, provides small, medium, and large PSAPs with equal resources and capabilities to defend against—and recover from—cyberattacks and allows for real-time information sharing and intelligence.”

TFOPA’s funding recommendations are based on a policy that “911 funding must be predictable, stable, and dedicated only for that purpose,” according to the report. In addition, any 911 fees should be applied to users of all technologies that can access 911, as opposed to current rules in some states that do not assess 911 fees on pre-paid wireless plans and some voice-over-IP (VoIP) offerings.

“A 911 user-based fee shall be assessed monthly in a competitively neutral manner on all technologies utilized to place a 9-1-1 emergency request for assistance to a public safety answering point through an emergency communications network. Such fee can include a traditional fee on an access line or communications device in a subscription, an amount in a pre-paid wireless plan, or going forward, could be assessed on user broadband connection to an Internet-access network provider.”

Although the TFOPA members indicated their conceptual support for assessing 911 fees on broadband connections, the report acknowledges that the matter requires further study on legal issues and implementation detail before becoming a reality. The report also calls for measures that would prevent state governments from raiding 911 funds to pay for budget items that are not directly related to 911.