Identifying an equitable way to fund 911 through the system’s transition from legacy to next-generation 911 (NG911) is paramount, but resolving that challenge will take additional efforts from federal, state and local governments, as well as the wireless industry, FCC’s Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture (TFOPA) members concluded during the committee’s fall meeting on Tuesday.

TFOPA’s Working Group 3 presented its final report on 911 fee structure and resource allocation to the full committee, which was established to provide recommendations to the commission about what public-safety answering points (PSAPs) can do to ensure optimal operations and funding during the NG911 migration. The report, which was accepted by the TFOPA members on Tuesday, provided a framework for the funding policy that should be in play to prepare for the inevitable funding constraints an entirely Internet Protocol (IP) emergency communications system will pose.

“The nation’s system of 911 fee collection and expenditures is at risk,” said Phil Jones, chairman of the working group and commissioner for Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission. “I think we wanted to be bold and forward-looking. We wanted to recommend some steps that could be taken in the future to right the ship. That is the consensus that we need to start righting the ship. This is only the start, not the finish.”

The report recommended third-party auditing to mitigate the impact that 911 fee diversions have in certain states, where legislatures have used the revenue source for non-911 items to help balance state budgets.

The working group also recommended establishing a joint advisory committee—tentatively dubbed the Local State Government Advisory Committee on 911 (LSAG)—that would include 911 representatives from local, state and federal organizations, as well as input from various sectors of the 911 ecosystem. Key tasks for the proposed new committee would be to help next-generation 911 deployment by educating 911 practitioners and policy makers about the challenges—including funding issues—associated with the migration to the NG911 architecture.

Securing unpaid fees from prepaid wireless providers that have avoided 911 fees due to state’s not charging them could also provide a revenue stream, Jones said. All in all, the primary concern for the working group was accelerating the transition from TDM architecture to IP-architecture.

“Working-group members are very concerned about a longer transition than what’s necessary, especially if this diversion of funding goes on,” Jones said during the task-force meeting, which was webcast. “We recommend to the state and local governments that they reach consensus soon on a targeted date—for example, 2024—by which national deployment would be completed.”