Lawmakers on cusp of wireless E911 compromise
Federal lawmakers are close to a compromise that would allow stagnated wireless E911 legislation to move forward, according to the National Emergency Number Association, which also predicted the much-anticipated bill would be enacted by the end of the summer.
“When we heard that a compromise was on the table, we were excited,” said NENA President Richard Taylor.
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 2003, but it has languished since then. Originally, the bill was expected to 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‥
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 million 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.”