The dawn of a new day
I always have been a bigger fan of sunrises than sunsets. The early morning hours are quiet and peaceful and offer promise yet to be shattered by the day’s events that loom just ahead. During high school and college, I worked the 6 a.m. shift at a local gas station and would ride my bicycle through a large park that stood between my home and workplace. There were other routes, but I enjoyed being in the park just after dawn, when the only sounds came from chirping birds and the rustling of the breeze in the trees.
As we report in this edition, a new day seemingly has dawned in our nation’s capital. The FCC smartly has decided to let 800 MHz licensees share information, which should help a great deal in terms of moving along the rebanding process. And, the newly crowned Democratic majority appears eager to push forward initiatives that could benefit public-safety communications.
Hopefully, one of those will be to finally deliver on a promise Congress made three years ago to provide significant money for public-safety answering point upgrades. A major priority was — and still is — to bring PSAPs into compliance with the FCC’s Phase 2 mandate, which requires emergency call centers to capture location information for wireless 911 calls.
Currently, about half of the counties across the U.S. — primarily in rural areas — still can’t provide Phase 2 services, according to the National Emergency Number Association. Moreover, virtually none of the money authorized by Congress — $1.25 billion over a five-year period — has been appropriated.
This is troublesome on at least a couple of levels. First, it’s going to be difficult to upgrade very many PSAPs when there’s no cash. Second, while the Enhanced 911 Act prohibits states that divert wireless E911 surcharge money to other purposes from receiving federal E911 grants, NENA Government Affairs Director Patrick Halley reminded me recently that, “If there are no funds available at the federal level, it’s a toothless clause.”
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), a high-profile Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional E911 Caucus, says she wants to lead the country as its president. I can think of no better place to start than to leverage the majority her party currently enjoys to get her brethren to loosen the purse strings. Halley told me Clinton and staff “went out of their way” in the last Congress to work with appropriators to get E911 funding. Granted, it’s in Halley’s — and NENA’s — best interests to be complimentary toward the senator, but he always has shot straight with me, so I’m willing to take him at his word.
I hope Sen. Clinton continues to work hard to obtain E911 funding. A new day has dawned. It’s time to do something with it.