Compromise on wireless E911 law reached, says NENA
TAMPA, Fla.–Federal lawmakers have reached a compromise that would allow much anticipated wireless E911 legislation to move forward, according to Steve Seitz, director of government affairs for the National Emergency Number Association.
Seitz, speaking at NENA’s trade show and conference here, said his sources on Capitol Hill predicted the law would be passed by the end of the summer. “They want to pass the bill before the federal elections [in November],” Seitz said.
The U.S. House passed its version of the bill last November. A Senate version co-sponsored by Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) was introduced in June 2003 and passed the Senate Commerce Committee in July, but has languished since then. It originally was thought the bill would reach the Senate floor shortly after the Christmas recess.
The House and Senate versions of the bill are similar. They would authorize federal funding for public-safety answering points seeking to upgrade to comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s Phase II mandate, which requires PSAPs and wireless carriers to identify the location of wireless 911 callers, and establish a national center to coordinate Phase II deployments and upgrades. The bills also would punish states that divert E911 funds collected via wireless service surcharges to other uses by denying them the federal grants.
However, the two bills are far apart on the funding level. The House version calls for $100 million annually, while the Senate version stipulates $500 million. NENA President Richard Taylor said he expects lawmakers to settle on about $250 in annual grant monies. “If I had to put good money on it, I would say we would be somewhere around the middle, maybe slightly below the middle, but I’m thinking middle ground,” Taylor said.
With costs estimated as high as $8 billion to upgrade all PSAPs nationwide to Phase II compliance, Taylor concedes that $250 million each year “won’t get the job done.” Nevertheless, he would gladly take it.
“It will provide seed money. It will get things started,” Taylor said. “Also, it’s money that has strings attached that will keep states from raiding funds. It provides a carrot and a stick, and that’s important.”